Pacer Mohammed Shami announced his arrival on the Test arena by scalping four wickets in a dream spell against the West Indies as a dominant India started Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell series by taking early control of the first Test in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Shami returned impressive figures of 4/71 in 18 overs as India bowled out the visitors for a paltry 234 after they opted to bat at the Eden Gardens on the opening day.
At stumps, India were comfortable placed at 37 for no loss with the two openers, Shikhar Dhawan (21) and Murali Vijay (16), at the crease. At the end of first day’s play, India trailed the West Indies by 197 runs with all their wickets intact.
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy’s decision to bat may have prevented the crowd from watching Tendulkar bat on the first day itself, but the 40-year-old retiring legend did his bit with the bowl picking up a wicket in his first over itself, taking his Test wicket tally to 46.
While Tendulkar was undoubtedly the cynosure of all eyes, Shami grabbed the opportunity with bot hands as he rocked the West Indies middle-order with a hostile spell that included quite a few reverse-swinging deliveries.
The 23-year-old Shami’s wickets included Kieran Powell, top-scorer Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin and Sheldon Cottrell.
Earlier, West Windies were placed were placed comfortably at 107 for two at lunch, but Shami wreaked havoc in the second session, extracting excellent reverse swings from the Eden pitch to trigger a collapse. The touring side lost eight wickets for 96 runs to be skittled out in 78 overs.
Samules scored 65 off 98 balls with the help of 11 fours and two sixes.
About 40,000 turned up on the first day, expecting Tendulkar to bat. While that did not happen, with the ball he turned the clock back as he trapped Shane Shillingford in front of the wicket with a straighter one after bowling three turning deliveries.
Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha (1/62) too impressed with his tidy bowling but he was unlucky twice with skipper Dhoni dropping Samuels and Shane Shillingford on two occasions.
Ravichandran Ashwin claimed 2/52.
Born in Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, Shami moved to Bengal eight years ago on coach Badruddin SIddique’s insistence as there were not many opportunities for the young pacer in his home state.
Shami, who hails from a remote village called Sahaspur about 22kms from Moradabad, found his calling in Kolkata where club cricket was very much active as he went on to ply his trade for clubs like Dalhousie AC and Town before being called for Bengal under-22.
He was also a part of the Kolkata Knight Riders squad in IPL 2011 and the tips from bowling consultant Wasim Akram proved invaluable.
It was a good move by Dhoni as he preferred Shami over the out-of-sorts Ishant Sharma, who, incidentally, gave the Test cap to the debutant pacer. The other debutant of the day was Rohit Sharma and he got the cap from Tendulkar.
Shami showed fine fitness as he bowled in four spells with the third being the longest and most fruitful (7-0-30-2).
He was at his best in the last spell that read 3-1-2-1.
Shami was also instrumental in Darren Bravo’s run-out as West Windies committed a harakiri in the middle, losing three wickets in as many overs to tilt the match in favour of India.
Shami got his maiden Test scalp in the form of Powell (28) after Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave the initial breakthrough, taking the prized wicket of Chris Gayle (18).
India exploited the slow Eden pitch to good effect as Bhuvneshwar dismissed Gayle with a low delivery. Both the WI openers looked impatient and got out in the space of four overs.
Playing his first Test at his home ground, Shami was impressive from the first over as he troubled both the openers.
With his second ball, Shami nipped one back against Powell, but the height saved the left—hander who appeared a little tentative to start with.
Gayle, on the other hand, went about in his usual brisk manner and even had an inside edge off Shami but was lucky as the ball missed the stumps.
Dhoni made a smart change, bringing in Shami from the High Court end that resulted in the wicket of Powell.
Samuels slowly repaired the damage as he completed his 19th half century in his happy hunting ground, where he had scored his maiden Test hundred in 2002, as the Caribbeans went to lunch smiling.
Shami castled Samuels with a sharp in-cutter to grab his second wicket, which broke a fine 91-run partnership with Bravo.
Dhoni gave the last over before tea to Tendulkar, bringing the crowd on its feet. It turned out be a masterstroke by the ‘Captain Cool’
After bowling three deliveries, the maestro unleashed a flipper and Shillingford had no answer.