Two Test matches ago, Mohammed Siraj made his debut for India in the format. However, following injuries to all three senior India pacers – Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and more recently Jasprit Bumrah – the 26-year-old was thrusted into the role of India’s leader of the bowling attack. At Brisbane, he led a unit comprising Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, T Natarajan and Navdeep Saini all of whom had a combined experience of two Tests before this.
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On Monday, Day 4 of the fourth Test between India and Australia at the Gabba, Siraj, who had a promising start to his Test career with five wickets in Melbourne, playing only his third Test match, claimed his maiden five-wicket-haul in Tests. He grabbed 5/73 and along with Thakur, who contributed with 4/61, helped India bowl Australia out for 294 in the second innings.
Siraj, who grabbed 1/77 in the first innings, bowled full throttle and was rewarded handsomely. He squared up Marnus Labuschagne who nicked behind for his first wicket, before having Matthew Wade caught down leg three balls later. After lunch, he dismissed top-scorer Steve Smith out caught at gully for his third before turning his focus on Australia’s tail.
As India looked to bowl Australia out quickly after tea, Siraj removed Mitchell Starc out caught at mid-off where Saini held on to a comfortable catch. With Siraj and Thakur picking up four each at that stage, it was just a matter of time before one of them registered his maiden five-for. As it turned out, Siraj got the landmark as Josh Hazlewood played the ramp shot straight down Thakur’s throat at third man.
With this, Siraj not only produced his career-best figures, but became only the fifth Indian bowler to take a five-wicket haul in a Test match in Brisbane. Before him, former spinners Erapalli Prasanna and Bishan Singh Bedi were the first two Indian bowlers to do so in Brisbane. Prasanna had picked up 6/104 in 1968, before Bedi claimed 5/55 nine years later in 1977.
India would have to wait for another 26 years, but former left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan did so in 2003. Zaheer finished with 5/95 in a famous Test which India drew. It was the same match where Sourav Ganguly saved India the blushes by scoring a handsome 144. For 17 years, no India bowler picked up five in an innings, before on Monday, Siraj produced a magnificent effort to end the wait.
Siraj’s effort made him only the sixth visiting fast bowler to claim a five-for in Brisbane. England’s Harold Larwood in 1928, Ken Shuttleworth in 1970, Graham Dilly in 1986 and Allan Mullaly in 1998 had gotten there along with Graeme Labrooy of Sri Lanka.