Mohammed Siraj on Saturday became the 298th player to play Test cricket for India and he made the occasion special by returning a fine bowling performance, one that saw him pick up 2/40. Siraj got the wicket of the dangerous Marnus Labuschagne just when Australia were looking to rebuild through a partnership between him and Travis Head. Labuschagne and Head had added 86 runs for the fourth wicket before Siraj had him caught by fellow debutant Shubman Gill at fine leg.
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After the end of play on Day 1, Siraj was interviewed by India’s fielding coach R Sridhar. Siraj revealed he felt a range of emotions when he received his Test cap from off-spinner R Ashwin. It wasn’t until the 28th over that Siraj wasn’t handed the ball and the fast bowler revealed how all that while he was itching to get his hands on the ball.
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“When I got the cap, I felt it was the biggest achievement of my life. I gained a lot of confidence speaking with Ajju bhai (Ajinkya Rahane) and Jassi bhai (Jasprit Bumrah),” he said. “My hands were itching to bowl out there, and after lunch when Ajju bhai told me to bowl, I began warming up. Then he said to me ‘you’ll only bowl for two overs’. Jadeja was to be brought on and rightly so because there was moisture on the wicket and it was helpful for the spinners.
“After lunch when I came in, it had turned into a batting wicket and my plan was to bowl as many dot balls as possible and build pressure.”
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While Labuschagne’s dismissal was Siraj’s maiden wicket in Test, his other wicket – that of Cameron Green – was even better. It took time for Siraj to generate swing – after lunch – but once that happened, he looked a different bowler altogether. Siraj set Green up by bowling plenty of outswingers before delivering a ball that came back in and trapped the batsmen out LBW. An inswing bowler naturally, Siraj tested the Australian batsmen with the outgoing deliveries as well but the fast bowler admitted he was over the moon foxing Green.
“That is natural,” Siraj said when asked about the inswing. “I was trying to come close to the wickets as well as go wide of it. In swing comes naturally to me. To Cameron Green, my away swingers were landing well too. After bowling a few inswingers and I bowled two complete overs of outswing. Then I bowled one ball which was the inswinger which got him. It felt nice to set him up and get his wicket.”