Cheteshwar Pujara had said in a statement after the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 was suspended midway, that the World Test Championship (WTC) Final is like a World Cup for several Indian cricketers including him who only play Test cricket. Unfortunately, the Indian cricket team were comprehensively beaten by a strong Kiwi outfit in the WTC Final who got their act together rather well on a green Southampton track.
Captain Kohli’s dream of getting his first ICC trophy before the T20 WC was over, but the tour still had a long way to go. A five match Test series versus England lay ahead of them as Kohli’s Bandwagon looked to lift the Pataudi Trophy for the first time since 2007, perhaps one of the only few feathers due in Test Captain Kohli’s cap.
India began the series on an incredibly positive note. On the back of some exemplary batting from KL Rahul and Bumrah’s fiery 9 wicket haul, India were left to chase 157 runs on the last day with nine wickets in hand. The pitch not offering much help to the bowlers with Rohit Sharma and Pujara looking fluent, the match was poised for an exciting finish with India favourites. The Test eventually got an anti-climactic finish as the final day was washed out. India took a lot of positives from the game, while England took plenty of questions and an injury to Stuart Broad into the next game.
In the next Test, England asked India to bat in overcast conditions on albeit a flat Lord’s pitch. After a successful performance at Trent Bridge, James Anderson and Ollie Robinson bowled their hearts out again trying inswingers, outswingers and even wobble seam deliveries. The India openers however, were resolute in defence and left the ball outside off consistently. Despite the first boundary of the day coming only in the 13th over, India had posted a 126/0 at the end of 43 overs while marching towards what would be the highest ever opening stand for India since 1979. Both Rohit and Rahul were going great guns but Anderson had other plans.
Inswinger, Outswinger, Outswinger, Reverse Seaming Jaffa!
The 4th ball as it left Jimmy Anderson’s hand had its seam pointed towards the slip and shaped away a bit in the air. Rohit batting on 83 (145) saw the movement and went forward to defend it like an outswinger/away-seamer. However, after the ball pitched, it came in slightly and hit Rohit’s back pad on its way to disturb the stumps.
Was it a fluke? No, it was Science.
To get a conventional swing, the ball is held with the fingers (index & middle) along the seam with the thumb holding the seam to ensure that the moment is directed along the seam. If the seam points towards slips, it swings away and if it points towards leg slip, it swings in (wrt Right handed batter).
Anderson bowled that delivery to Rohit with a diagonal grip of the seam. The fingers were on the seam along the direction of the seam, but the thumb was left of the seam on the leather. So at the point of release, the seam was pointing towards slip but there wasn’t much momentum along the direction of the seam (due to thumb grip). Thus, the ball started to straighten in the air and by the time it pitched, it was angling towards leg-stump.
Having seen the ball shape away from the hand, Rohit was committed to his shot. The seam changed direction in the air and completely deceived him. The ball after pitching came in and hit the back pad. The next thing Rohit could hear was timber, courtesy the genius of James Anderson.
And this didn’t happen just once. Pujara’s dismissal in the first innings at The Oval was also a similar type of delivery. The seam at the release point was pointed to leg-slip, and Pujara played it as an inducker only for the seam to change direction mid-air and take his edge through to the keeper.
Both Rohit and Pujara couldn’t have done anything to avoid their dismissals. They didn’t do anything wrong, but sometimes you have no answers to such brilliance.
James Anderson is 39 years old. Physically, still fit enough to bowl 25 plus overs a day without his speed dropping below 80 mph. Mentality, agile enough to find new types of deliveries to get lateral movement on flatish conditions to get batters out.
So what more can he bring to his kitty? We will perhaps find that out next summer.