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Workhorse Siraj does what he does best to help India take control

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Last updated on 17 Feb 2024 | 08:19 AM
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Workhorse Siraj does what he does best to help India take control

India needed Siraj to step up. And step up he did

Among the many combinations that were being thrown around for team India ahead of this Test, the most obvious one, which was three spinners + Bumrah and Siraj, was somehow not the most popular choice.

Three spinners plus two seamers has been India’s standard tactic for a long while now, but the ineffectiveness of the second seamer in the first two Tests of this series meant that people started to clamour for the inclusion of four spinners (Jadeja, Ashwin, Axar & Kuldeep) and Bumrah.

The 4+1 ploy was not out of the question leading up to the Test, but India eventually stuck to their guns, opting to play three spinners while simply replacing Mukesh Kumar with Siraj.

Three days into this Test, Siraj has vindicated the management’s call, playing a significant part in helping the hosts stage a comeback and firmly stamp their authority in this Test.

Bouncebackability is a trait that’s defined Siraj’s entire career, and once again, in Rajkot, it was his ability to put behind a disappointing start and keep banging on the door that enabled him to trouble England and finish on a high.

Siraj’s Test got off to a rather disappointing start, with him getting taken apart in his first spell on Day 2 by a red-hot Ben Duckett. His first five overs cost 30, and he barely threatened with the new ball.

However, brought back into the attack once again in the 26th over, he re-calibrated his plans and found rewards instantly with the old ball, dismissing a set Ollie Pope to break the 93-run second-wicket stand.

Steaming in with the old ball, Siraj’s five-over-long second spell featured him bowling short predominantly. With not a lot on offer on the surface, the 29-year-old, who enjoys being a workhorse, hammered the ball into the surface ball after ball for the entirety of his spell.

His skill and smarts lay in the dismissal of Pope. After softening the right-hander up with a bunch of short deliveries, he angled one into Pope and trapped him right in front of the stumps. 

Pope, who clearly was taken aback by the surprise delivery, played all over the delivery and paid the price.

Siraj only had just the one wicket to show for on Day 2, but he got a much-deserved statistical boost on the third day as he finished with four wickets in the innings.

Both Rehan Ahmed and Jimmy Anderon were undone by exceptional full deliveries, but the pick of the Siraj dismissals on Day 3 was that of Ben Foakes.

With the ball reversing seriously post the 60th over, Siraj opted to slant the ball in and attack the inside-edge of Foakes. Skipper Rohit Sharma complimented the line of attack with his field set-up, a leg-side heavy field which had three catching fielders on the leg-side, including a short mid-wicket and a forward square-leg. 

Foakes looked solid for a long while, but the relentlessness of the plan finally got the better of him as he ended up chipping a ball that stopped straight to Rohit at mid-on. 

The spell today from Siraj was a huge one in the context of this game. India entered the day a bowler short due to losing Ashwin, who flew back home last night due to a personal emergency. Rohit bowled Bumrah for the entirety of the first hour, but he couldn’t afford to bowl his talisman to the ground. 

Hence, Siraj needed to step up. And step up he did. 

Early days, but Siraj’s showing in this Test might just embolden the management to rest Bumrah for the fourth Test in Ranchi.

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