Minutes before stumps on Day 3 in the Rajkot Test, England leg spinner Adil Rashid produced a sharp googly. It was the 108th over, and Rashid’s 16th. Murali Vijay was batting on 126. The ball jumped, turned and took Vijay’s glove to settle in Haseeb Hameed’s hands at short leg. Rashid had his first scalp in India.
England broke a 209-run partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Vijay, and snatched the first innings lead. Rashid took 4/114 in the first innings and three more wickets in the second. But it was Vijay’s dismissal that gave him the success mantra for the hard Rajkot wicket.
The trick was to bowl a three-quarters length to get the ball to climb on the batsmen. He also knew that the most effective way was to get batsmen caught in the close cordon. As the ball turned less and jumped a lot, it would be difficult to get batsmen bowled or trapped leg before. Five of his seven wickets were catches.
Slow ‘n sure
Having faced the Indian spinners, Rashid knew he had to stick to his natural ability of bowling slow. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja struggled but didn’t cut down on speed despite deliveries turning and jumping when bowled at less than 50mph.
Rashid gave air and didn’t mind Vijay or Pujara stepping out to hit. Reduced speeds meant the ball gripped the surface and turned and bounced more, the best tactic for hard surfaces.
Rashid’s other three wickets in the first innings were examples of such an approach. Virat Kohli went too deep in the crease as the ball rose and he had to roll the wrists over, and trod on the stump. Jadeja too failed to handle the bounce staying put in the crease.
Amit Mishra though struggled to cut down his pace. In the first innings, all his slow, flighted deliveries were full tosses, and he took 1/98. He picked two wickets in the second innings as the wicket became conducive for spin.
One reason for his success in the subcontinent is his technique. Most spinners have a straight run-up, and though it provides better balance in their delivery stride, they end up compromising on spin. Without transfer of weight, with a pivot of the front foot, they look ordinary.
Rashid’s diagonal run-up, and his side-on delivery, also helps him disguise his googly. He bowls the wrong one from the middle of the crease while his leg-spinner is bowled from close to the stumps.
Such an approach works against him as well because it restricts his ability to vary his pace, which is fundamental to be effective in ODIs. When Rashid tries to bowl quicker in ODIs, he generally drops it short. Mishra, South Africa’s Imran Tahir and Australia’s Adam Zampa have been successful in limited-overs cricket because they constantly vary their speed and length.
Rashid’s tactics were perfect on a grassy Rajkot pitch. Whether it works on a bare Visakhapatnam pitch has to be seen.