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.
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) January 17, 2021
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.
The records make it plain that Natarajan can't bat; why waste valuable time this way? #AusvInd
— Daniel Brettig (@danbrettig) January 17, 2021
— Andrew McGlashan (@andymcg_cricket) January 17, 2021
Can someone bowl at the stumps please?
— Jamie Cox (@jamiecox1969) January 17, 2021
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.
“Do you need to set a bloke up that averages 2?”
— Ian Higgins (@1an_Higgins) January 17, 2021
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.
Radical thought….but consider declaration, Ajinkya. No point getting another bowler injured.
Let’s get the Aussie openers to play the final 40 mins. They’ll be two down in quick time. #AusvInd
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) January 17, 2021
Others wondered about the ethics of Australia’s line of attack.
Too many short balls at tailenders.
Reverse the batting/bowling side and watch a debate over this. #AusvInd
— Chetan Narula (@chetannarula) January 17, 2021
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