Though not express pace, tall New Zealander also has ability to find different lengths.
Kyle Jamieson invokes a familiar dread in the mind of India’s batsmen. The beanpole seamer had harassed them in Wellington and Christchurch; haunted them in Southampton; and in the latest exhibition of his seemingly limitless prowess, bitten them at their backyard in Kanpur too, ticking a large box in his resume, the resourcefulness to be a lethal force in Asia.
Every overseas bowler, no matter how successful he has been in his own terrain, comes with question marks on his effectiveness in Asian climes. They are often judged by that yardstick too – the inverse of Asian spinners producing match-winning spells abroad. Even more so for someone from New Zealand. Even some of their finest swing-seam bowling merchants, like Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, have struggled to replicate their genius in India, a reason the country remains an unconquered peak for them. But what they could not, Jamieson could in an exemplary exhibition of precise seam bowling in his first Test match in Asia, looking more like a seasoned virtuoso than a first-timer.
Most of the success stories of foreign pace bowlers involve extreme pace or reverse swing. Dale Steyn and James Anderson for instance. Jamieson barely nudges 140kph. That he could reverse-swing became evident only on Thursday.
But what he has is the ability to procure swing and seam, both subtle and noticeable, conventional and reverse, control and discipline. The ball that Mayank Agarwal nicked behind was a conventional out-swinger, his stock ball. But Agarwal was waiting for inward seam movement, and hence was sucked into the half-defensive prod.
Similarly, Shubman Gill was expecting conventional inward seam movement, he got a reverse-swinging corker that moved devilishly into him. He stood stupefied. “I didn’t expect the ball to reverse that early in the game,” Gill later admitted. Here, thus, is a bowler who could bowl the same ball in different ways. He could make the ball move into the right-hander with orthodox seam as well as reverse seam. He could swing the ball away, as well as seam the ball away. He could seam the ball into the right-hander as well as reverse-swing the ball into him. In his post-lunch spell, he resorted to both, muddling the batsmen’s mind.
Like all good seamers, he attains these with minor changes in his release and wrists positions. Watch how loosely he holds the ball. It allows a wrist flick for more rotation. The ones that move noticeably are propelled with a more vigorous snap of the wrists than the ones that are not.
He uses swing as a spinner does variations. Sometimes he tilts the wrists more, sometimes less. With the dexterity of a piano player, he works his fingers over the ball to produce his whims.
Sometimes, he holds the ball with his index and middle finger together at the seam, sometimes, they are held apart; the thumb sometimes rests under the ball, sometimes on the side of it. The mastery over various methods denotes that he could make the ball to seam, swing, reverse swing, cut and wobble. Often, these are tricks bowlers acquire over a period of time. But Jamieson appears to have sprouted fully formed. It’s unfathomable that he is playing in just his ninth Test match. He has the maturity of a wizened pro.
Point of impact
Fuse his mastery of seam manipulation with height and command of length, he turns into a behemoth of a fast bowler. The ball is released from such a towering height, accentuated by his high-arm release, that even from a good length, the ball takes off more than it does with shorter bowlers. The point of impact is much higher on the bat, a reason batsmen are hesitant to commit fully forward when facing him. They end up in no man’s land. The height makes him even more difficult to negotiate on a surface with variable bounce, as was the Green Park pitch. Ajinkya Rahane will confess. A lot of Jamieson’s balls had arrived at hip height, but the one he dragged on barely crossed over his waist. The variance of bounce is more pronounced than shorter bowlers.
Equally praiseworthy is his control over lengths. Most bowlers have a preferred operating length; Jamieson’s is good length, but he is equally comfortable bowling fuller, like the Gill ball that was quite full. He could bowl short too, uncomfortably into the body. Gill would again acknowledge, as Jamieson had subjected him to a short ball barrage in the World Test Championship final. That his three wickets of the day were of different lengths underlines the point —Agarwal with a good length ball, Gill with a full one and Rahane with a back-of-length one.
Often, a batsman’s height is taken for granted, but a lot of tall bowlers would confess how difficult it’s to hit good and fuller lengths. Both Morne Morkel and Ishant Sharma had their travails in locating the lengths that make them un-negotiable for batsmen. In all there is little that he can’t do. So consummate that batsmen should be thankful that he is spared of lightning pace. He would, then, have been nigh unplayable.
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