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‘Can someone bowl at the stumps?’ – Australia’s tail-ender short ball ploy raises eyebrows

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Australia’s short ball ploy against India’s Nos. 10 and 11 at the Gabba caused plenty of confusion and consternation both in the commentary box and on social media.

When Washington Sundar’s heroic knock was ended on 62, most expected India’s innings to be wrapped up in a couple of deliveries. Mohammad Siraj had already shown he would throw his bat at everything, crashing six off his first two balls, and debutant T Natarajan came in with a first-class average of 2.00 to his name. In 20 first-class games, the 29-year-old had claimed more than twice as many wickets as he’d scored runs and in his 10 previous first-class innings, he hadn’t scored a single run.

With one ball left of the 109th over, Mitchell Starc, perhaps the best yorker bowler in world cricket, opted to go short to the new man, and eyebrows were raised immediately.

More bouncers followed, from both Starc and Josh Hazlewood, and the on-air commentators wondered if this was the classic plan of pushing a batsman onto the back foot before surprising him with a fuller delivery. However, as one pundit pointed out, that was probably overthinking it.

With both Siraj and Natarajan looking in danger of copping nasty blows, some wondered if the Indian team management should take matters into their own hands and call the innings off early.

Others wondered about the ethics of Australia’s line of attack.

In the end, Siraj and Natarajan added just eight runs in three overs before a straight, full ball clattered the former’s stumps. But in a hotly contested series of tight margins, and with rain likely to play a part, Australia could yet come to rue the strange passage of play

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