Dubai: Aggression is an attitude. No gestures, no pumping fists and no send offs. One could be a ruthless assassin even with a smile writ on the face. That’s Mohammed Shami for you. The Indian pacer has been at his menacing best, bringing down one opposition to another with an amazing regularity. It has not been a bed of roses for Shami, but a rocky path instead. He had to overcome a running personal battle and several injuries during the last few years. He was not in the regular playing XI in the initial games, giving way for the younger opponent Mohammed Siraj.
But nothing has deterred the 33-year-old to steam in to send the stumps crashing even against the best. At the end of it, a smile with a raised finger is his way of celebration.
Coming in at one change, when Sri Lanka were tottering at 14 for four in the 10th over, Shami struck in the third ball to dismiss Charith Asalanka and immediately added another wicket off the very next delivery. Despite his hat-trick delivery stoutly defended by Dushmantha Chameera, he got the better of the Chameera a few deliveries later. He then bowled a beauty to dismiss the experienced Angelo Mathews, an inswinger that went through the gate to dislodge the leg stump.
Shami’s five-wicket haul against Sri Lanka helped him become India’s highest wicket-taker in World Cup with 45 wickets, surpassing Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath who both have 44 wickets. In three World Cup games so far, he has two five-wicket hauls and one four to take his tally to 14.
Secret of Shami's success
What is Shami’s secret to success? Keeping it simple.
“As always, I am trying to pitch the ball in the right areas and trying to find the right rhythm, because in big tournaments, if you lose the rhythm it’s very difficult to get it back. So right from the start, the attempt has been to focus on the right areas and right lengths. When it’s working, so why not try to repeat it,” Shami told the official broadcasters after receiving the man of the match award during the post-match presentation ceremony.
The match didn’t live up to the expectations of the two finalists in the 2011 World Cup at the same venue in Mumbai, but ended up as an one-sided contest with the hosts winning by a 302-run margin. The islanders put up another dismal show and ended up five runs more than the Asian Cup final in Colombo in September.
Chasing a huge target of 358, Sri Lanka lost opener Pathum Nissanka off the first ball to Jasprit Bumrah and Siraj, the tormentor of Sri Lanka with a five-wicket haul in Asia Cup final, struck three quick blows to reduce the 1996 champions to four down for just three runs. The writing was on the wall by then. Still, India kept applying the pressure on Sri Lanka and only a ninth-wicket partnership of 20 between Kasun Rajitha and Maheesh Theekshana saved them from ignominy of finishing with the lowest World Cup score.
Paying the price for lapses
When India batted, they seemed to be playing on a different surface. Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill were scoring with ease after they both got early reprieves. They both made the Islanders pay heavily for their lapses but both lost their wickets closer to their centuries to Dilshan Madhushanka, who also finished with a five-wicket haul. The Sri Lankan left-arm pacer now tops the wicket-takers table with 18 wickets.
Shreyas Iyer rubbed salt into the Sri Lankan wounds with a dominating 82 and Ravindra Jadeja too got some good batting time towards the end.
India’s victory margin is the second highest in World Cup history, after Australia’s 309-win over the Netherlands in New Delhi on October 25.
The victory took India’s tally to 14 points and became the first team to book their place in the semi-finals.
“I’m very happy to know that we have qualified for the semi-finals, this was the first goal. But how we approached the seven games has been quite clinical, and a lot of individuals have put in the efforts, put their hands up and stood up. It was a good challenge for us to bat and put runs on the board. Credit to the batters for getting to that total and then the seamers obviously,” Indian skipper Rohit Sharma, who had a rare failure, told the broadcasters.
Talking about the next game between the table-toppers, Rohit added: “They’re playing some good cricket, so are we, so it’s going to be a good game.”
R. Sharma b Madushanka 4
S. Gill c Mendis b Madushanka 92
V. Kohli c Nissanka b Madushanka 88
S. Iyer c Theekshana b Madushanka 82
KL Rahul c Hemantha b Chameera 21
S. Yadav c Mendis b Madushanka 12
R. Jadeja run out (Samarawickrama/Mendis) 35
M. Shami run out (Mendis) 2
J. Bumrah not out 1
Extras (b5, lb6, nb1, w8) 20
Total (8 wkts, 50 overs) 357
Did not bat: K Yadav, M Siraj
Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Rohit), 2-193 (Gill), 3-196 (Kohli), 4-256 (Rahul), 5-276 (S Yadav), 6-333 (Iyer), 7-355 (Shami), 8-357 (Jadeja)
Bowling: Madushanka 10-0-80-5 (6w); Chameera 10-2-71-1; Rajitha 9-0-65-0 (1w); Mathews 3-0-11-0; Theekshana 10-0-67-0 (1w); Hemantha 8-0-52-0 (1nb);
P. Nissanka lbw b Bumrah 0
D. Karunaratne lbw b Siraj 0
K. Mendis b Siraj 1
S. Samarawickrama c Iyer b Siraj 0
C. Asalanka c Jadeja b Shami 1
A. Mathews b Shami 12
D. Hemantha c Rahul b Shami 0
D. Chameera c Rahul b Shami 0
M. Theekshana not out 12
K. Rajitha c Gill b Shami 14
D. Madushanka c Iyer b Jadeja 5
Extras (b5, lb1, w4) 10
Total (all out, 19.4 overs) 55
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Nissanka), 2-2 (Karunaratne), 3-2 (Samarawickrama), 4-3 (Mendis), 5-14 (Asalanka), 6-14 (Hemantha), 7-22 (Shami), 8-29 (Mathews), 9-49 (Rajitha), 10-55 (Madushanka)
Bowling: Bumrah 5-1-8-1 (3w); Siraj 7-2-16-3 (1w); Shami 5-1-18-5; Kuldeep 2-0-3-0; Jadeja 0.4-0-4-1;
Result: India won by 302 runs
Toss: Sri Lanka