Any lurking suspicion of where this Test series could be headed after Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant decided to give Kanpur a miss was dispatched with disdain by Shreyas Iyer when he deposited William Somerville several rows into the stands beyond mid-wicket boundary just before Day 1 stumps was called. Ajaz Patel bowling outside leg as Kane Williamson anxiously waited for the second new ball is a fairly accurate picture of what post-tea sessions in India can do to visitors. You learn and contemplate the next plan of action but secretly wish you were home, waiting for the return tour and the table to turn. Kyle Jamieson, however, will not mind this fling despite four no-balls.
Two months out of action because Royal Challengers Bangalore and New Zealand couldn’t find him a place, Jamieson opted out of the T20 series to return and bowl like it was business as usual. Against specialist batters on a mend, on a slow pitch that allows for hand-eye coordination to flourish and proper footwork to take a backseat, knowing well there are very few windows of opportunity. Sure, misty mornings aggravate the swing and Jamieson cashed in on it properly. But Jamieson isn’t express. Neither has he developed a mean bouncer to go with that towering 6ft8 frame. If it’s Jamieson, it’s all line and length, not exactly the prototype that goes with those dimensions. Still, it’s like walking a tightrope, particularly in India.
So, when he erred on the fuller side of a good length ball in the eighth over, Mayank Agarwal leaned in to caress a beautiful cover drive. It was an audacious stroke that could have messed with Jamieson’s plans but he probably has bowling fourth stump lines hardwired into him. All Jamieson did was shorten the length by more than two metres and within two deliveries, Agarwal obliged him by edging a ball shaping away from him. Eight Tests old, having only played in England apart from home before this, Jamieson can be called a work in progress. The lines are blurred at this stage of the career. What fetches a wicket in New Zealand could be carted for a boundary in India. But Jamieson’s intricate understanding of the right lengths to hit reminded us of the fine margins that make batting flit between art and an act of survival. And in achieving that skill so early into his career Jamieson shows he is different.
This is far from over though. India was, is and will always be hard on visiting fast bowlers. Jamieson’s baptism is barely 16 overs and eight boundaries old so India is bound to grow on him. But you may trust him to stick to his laser-sharp instincts. Like bowling a fuller length while switching to the in-swinger against Shubman Gill who has a well-documented problem closing the bat-pad gap on the front foot. At 135.8 kph, this is just quick enough to find Gill slow on the move and on his heels while playing at it, allowing for that gap to form. Only two out of 20 deliveries Gill had faced from Jamieson were fuller than the one that dismissed him.
You could say Ajinkya Rahane was unlucky in chopping the ball on to his stumps just after getting to reverse a caught-behind decision but this too was a dismissal long in the making. To Rahane, Jamieson bowled either good length or slightly short of it, meaning the 5ft6 batter was constantly asked to adapt to changing lengths from a point of release of eight feet or more. And that meant being more on his toes—not exactly the balance batters seek while asserting authority. It led to a momentary crisis India can ignore now. But that, right there, was a lesson for non-express bowlers on how to keep batters at bay on slow subcontinent pitches—bowl fourth stump lines, lure the drive and then pull back the length but not so much that it can be punched. And just keep pegging away at it.
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