High five for Siraj as hard work, skill rewarded | Crickit
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High five for Siraj as hard work, skill rewarded

By, Mumbai
Jul 24, 2023 08:15 AM IST

The India spearhead in the absence of Bumrah and Shami, he delivered with quick wickets on Day 4 of the second Test against West Indies at Port-of-Spain

There are times in Test cricket when you really have to grind it out for success. You need to wear the opponent down to move forward. That is precisely what Mohammed Siraj did for India, with support from debutant Mukesh Kumar, in the second Test against West Indies at Port of Spain on Sunday.

India's Mohammed Siraj celebrates a wicket on Day 4 of the 2nd Test match against West Indies, at Queen's Park Oval (BCCI Twitter)
India's Mohammed Siraj celebrates a wicket on Day 4 of the 2nd Test match against West Indies, at Queen's Park Oval (BCCI Twitter)

Not many would’ve expected the Windies to respond after the innings defeat they suffered in the series opener at Dominica. But their batters showed character to keep them in the game after the visitors posted 438 batting first.

With skipper Kraigg Brathwaite leading the way, West Indies put up an admirable fight with the bat on Day 3. Every batter who came to the crease put a price on his wicket.

While Brathwaite faced 235 deliveries, fellow opener Tagenarine Chanderpaul 95, Kirk McKenzie 57, Jermaine Blackwood 92 and Alick Athanaze 115. And none of these batters in the top five, apart from debutant McKenzie who played some attractive strokes, played at a strike-rate higher than 35.

It was a proper attritional day of Test cricket. Not only were the Indians faced with a determined opposition, they received precious little assistance from the surface. After stumps on Day 3, bowling coach Paras Mhambrey was critical in his assessment of the Queen’s Park Oval pitch.

“The pitch is very slow, it isn’t spinning or seaming much and it’s been tough for the bowlers,” said Mhambrey. “Overall, it’s been easy for batting. Also, their batters played quite defensively. If you play some shots then the bowlers can get a chance, but their batters didn’t even attempt to do that. There should be sporting pitches so that there’s a balance between batting and bowling. It’s been very difficult on such a pitch, it isn’t entertaining to watch either. You want to get results, so the pitches shouldn’t be this flat.”

With just two days remaining to force a result and rain stoppages reducing playing time, India needed an inspired performance with the ball, and they got that from Siraj early on Day 4. After Kumar trapped Athanaze in front with the fourth ball of the day, Siraj mopped up the remaining four wickets in quick time to help India gain a 183-run first innings lead.

It was an emphatic fightback by India after their struggles on Saturday as West Indies lost their last five wickets in the first 46 balls on Day 4.

Siraj made great use of the second new ball by swinging it both ways and hitting good length consistently. With Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami not present, the 29-year-old led the pace attack brilliantly to claim his second five-wicket haul in Tests.

India continued to move forward rapidly as skipper Rohit Sharma hit a quick-fire half-century in the first session of play. Again, the visitors found themselves in a strong position to complete a series sweep and much of the credit for that should go to Siraj and Co for their hard work in tough conditions.

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