Pace bowler Mohammad Siraj provided the crucial breakthroughs on Saturday that helped India stay in the game and then tighten the noose around Pakistan.
This was his first game against Pakistan in a World Cup and the experience left him humbled.
While Jasprit Bumrah was miserly as usual and kept the pressure on while picking two wickets later, Siraj did his bit by effecting lacerations in Pakistan’s batting line-up when they were needed.
He first got rid of Abdullah Shafique to break a settled opening partnership and then when Babar Azam and Muhammad Rizwan were weaving a partnership for the third wicket, provided the crucial breakthrough by getting rid of Azam which began Pakistan’s collapse.
“Shafique’s wicket was planned. I had spoken to Rohit [Sharma] Bhai. I had bowled a bouncer to him (Shafique) before and he got stuck in the middle. Then I talked to Rohit for a while. Shafique thought I was going to bowl a bouncer again. He was on the back-foot and I pitched the ball up and got success [by having him leg-before],” said Siraj, who picked 2/50 in eight overs, speaking to media after the match.
Pakistan’s dilemma as Mickey Arthur, Director of Pakistan Cricket, in the press conference and their head coach Grant Bradburn in the mixed zone interaction said, was understanding the difference between the different soils used in pitches in India. There are various types of soils and many venues in India, Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium included, use a variety of soils (red, black, mixed) which can often decide the outcome of the game.
It was perhaps that which led to Azam miscalculating the shot against Siraj.
“When their (Azam and Rizwan) partnership was going well, I was called for bowling. I had a plan to take a wicket there. I knew that if we break the partnership, the new batsman will come and we will put pressure on him and bowl dot balls. So, my only aim was to take a wicket there and I got that wicket. After that, they collapsed,” added Siraj before revealing Azam’s mistake.
“He played back to a ball that he should have played on front foot. The ball was pitched in front and he tried to play it behind [square]. That’s why he missed it.”
The 29-year-old from Hyderabad was a relieved man after being the weak link – expensive – in Indian bowling in the match against Afghanistan on October 11. He had bowled well in the first match against Australia in Chennai on October 8.
He called the Afghanistan game an ‘off-day’ like it can be in the case of any person while expressing gratitude for getting to play for India.
“I never thought I will play World Cup and that too because I have come from so low. I never thought that I will play World Cup, but now I am playing so it is a matter of achievement for me,” added the pace bowler from Hyderabad who got support from the others.
“The bowling unit [of India] is performing. If you don’t get a wicket, you’re building pressure and putting in a dot ball. The team will get success. When Jassi (Jasprit Bumrah) bowls, you see what line is better on the wicket. When you’re on the third man and final leg, you get to see the line and get some information from the wicketkeeper that this line is better on the wicket. So, it becomes easier to execute.”