WTC Final | Rose Bowl Day 5 Talking Points: ‘Unlucky’ Shami turns MVP and Williamson’s unfamiliar innings

On day five, certainly not the last day, New Zealand were on the back foot, thanks to India’s pacer Mohammed Shami, who bagged a crucial four-fer, bowling the English length. However, at the other end, there was something unfamiliar, a Kane Williamson innings of 49 having faced 177 deliveries.

Brief scores – India 217 and 64/2 (Rohit Sharma 22; Tim Southee 2/17) lead New Zealand 249 all-out (Devon Conway 54, Mohammed Shami 4-76) by 32 runs

On day five, with conditions once again favouring seamers, India had to get off the box quickly, chasing the game after being dismissed for just 217 runs.  That’s exactly what they did, Jasprit Bumrah’s first over caught Kane Williamson in two minds – whether to play it on the backfoot or play it on the front. Ishant Sharma’s second over was enough to plant doubts in Ross Taylor’s mind about his backfoot getting trapped to late swing. In the first ten overs of the day, barring the one over from Shami, the three Indian pacers just conceded nine runs, which later was 16 runs from 13 overs. 

During the same timeline, the Indian bowlers hit the ‘English’ length, which caught the New Zealand batsmen struggling in their crease. In the entire Test, in that length, only 1 RPO were scored, which made it an extremely difficult batting place. But that came at a cost, while India might have had an expected average of 21.7, as per Cricviz’s statistics, their strike rate took a toll. Due to India’s overdependence on the 6m length, which is also considered the English length, it allowed the Kiwi batsmen to either leave the ball or play it very late, which increased their strike rate to 49, in comparison to the BlackCaps bowling unit’s 44. 

In fact, only nine-ten balls were aimed at the stumps, which made it more than easy for the two batsmen – Taylor and Williamson – to leave the ball without being in too much trouble. However, the ball with which Shami sent back Taylor, was on the same 6M length but was closer to the stumps, which forced the Kiwi batsman to make the mistake. India really stuck by their principles of bowling the English length. 

Kane Williamson’s unfamiliar batting stagnancy

Very often, when Kane Williamson is at the crease, the runs tend to flow, the strike tends to be rotated and everything seems like it is magical. But on Tuesday, after a day ruined by rain, Williamson adopted an approach, similar to one that Cheteshwar Pujara adopted earlier in the game. While Pujara didn’t see the end of the day, Williamson’s start on day five, began in a rather calm fashion, forcing Ross Taylor to be the aggressor. Unfortunately, for New Zealand, that force from the other end kick-started a rather ‘known’ collapse, leading to a situation. 

Neither did New Zealand get enough runs in the first session nor did they get enough runs to force the situation, handing India an unreal advantage going into the second session on day five. In his first 100 deliveries, Williamson, a naturally prolific run-scorer, only got 15 runs, which also happens to be his lowest return in 100 deliveries across any innings of his Test career.

His run-rate on day five, according to Cricviz, was the slowest for any top-order batsmen in the last decade, at 0.26 RPO. A phase in the innings that ultimately cost the BlackCaps several runs and for India, it handed the advantage back to them. While he did increase his strike rate post the new-ball antics, he ended up scoring 49 off 177 deliveries, at a strike rate of 27.68, the lowest for any Kiwi batsmen in their first innings, against India.

Mohammed Shami turns ‘unlucky’ start to a bright finish

Being Mohammed Shami is tough, very tough, that tough that people endlessly criticise you for not getting enough wickets as you had promised. After the summer of disappointment in 2018, where his average peaked at the highs of 40, there were calls for the Indian management to drop him for Mohammed Siraj. However, Shami’s first day with the ball in the World Test Championship was a sharp reflection of his experience in the 2018 series, where he was terribly unlucky. He was a mirror reflection of the same person, same luck factor, same result.

Shami’s length against NZ batsmen © ICC

But on day five, where things were better for the bowlers, Shami made a critical change in his bowling, making the batsmen play more, resulting in a quick change of fortune for him. 53% of his deliveries were outside the off-stump, which prompted the batsmen to go out for the shot. His length, on day four, it was 7.48m on an average, which in England is slightly on the shorter side, where he did beat the batsmen, bowling at 6.94m. It was not just the length, the Indian seamer also got the ball to get an average seam movement of 0.9 degrees, more than any other Indian bowler. 

His dismissals were a classical example of how he deceived the batsmen in overcast conditions. Barring the short delivery against Kyle Jamieson, one that shocked the right-hander with the bounce, Shami was on spot, on a slightly fuller length to pick his wickets. His delivery to dismiss BJ Watling was the best of the lot, with the ball pitching seaming enough to go past Watling’s bat, to find the stumps rattling.

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