Wicket or no wicket, Zaheer bowled brilliantly
It seemed as if Zaheer would spend the first part of the second session resting near the fence, but he was marking his run-up in the second over after the break, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.cricket Updated: Nov 08, 2008 23:03 IST
Success is normally evaluated in terms of numbers but a beauty of this game is that figures sometimes hide more than they reveal. Not for the first time in this series, Zaheer Khan was the man whose hard work went unnoticed in the bowling analysis column of the scorecard.
Bowling on either side of the wicket and often straying wide down the leg, Zaheer had allowed Australia too many easy moments on the second day of this Test. So on Saturday when India came out with a drastically different plan, the left-armer took it upon himself to carry a major share of the load.
This is something he has been doing recently, but the amount of effort Zaheer put in on the crucial third day of this match will have few parallels. In terms of numbers, his figures for the day were 20-8-27-1, after going for 41 in eight overs a day earlier. With Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer led the mission to suffocate Australia.
The most remarkable aspect of what might turn out to be a defining moment of this game was his seemingly unending energy. After starting the day's proceedings, he bowled non-stop (12-5-19-1) before lunch, save for the one-over break in changing ends.
Most of these overs were bowled wide of off stump to left-handers with a hint of away movement, but he wasn't always defending. After winning a fortuitous leg-before appeal against Simon Katich and getting Michael Clarke, a right-hander, out to the middle, Zaheer changed tactics. The ball was moving back in and Zaheer started attacking the stumps.
It seemed as if he would spend the first part of the second session resting near the fence, but to the surprise of everybody, Zaheer was marking his run-up in the second over after the break.
Again, he was keeping Clarke on his toes with the batsman forced into a spell of blocking with bat and pad close together.
There was no room to play shots or any lapse in length that could have released the pressure.
After bowling three overs in the post-lunch session Zaheer was replaced by Ishant and headed to the deep.
But Ishant had bowled just four overs followed by one by Virender Sehwag, when Zaheer reappeared at the bowling end, handed his hat to the umpire and started another spell of three overs.
On pitches unresponsive to quicker bowlers, Zaheer's reverse swing has troubled Australia all through this series, barring the third Test.
The car for the Man of the Series may go to someone with more runs or wickets, but the two captains India had in this series will have a special word of praise for Zaheer's tireless perseverance.