Early in life, Kyle Jamieson needed to make a career decision. He was tall, lanky, athletic and he had a chance of going big in either basketball or cricket.
As a youngster, he was part of a representative squad where he played as a point guard and loved drilling in three pointers. But at the same time, he wasn’t lagging in cricket either – even at 11, he was an allrounder who opened the batting and took the new ball.
And if he still wasn’t sure he had taken the right decision, then Day 3 of the World Test Championship final was further evidence that the path he has chosen to walk down is tailor-made for him. The 6’8” pacer was absolutely brilliant to claim his fifth five-wicket haul in just eight Tests as India were bowled out for 217.
India skipper Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant — perhaps the three most dangerous batsmen in the Indian batting line-up — all fell to him as did Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. He finished with bowling figures of 22-12-31-5… numbers that would do any bowler proud.
It might be fair to say that Tim Southee and Trent Boult weren’t at their best in the Indian innings but Jamieson stepped in to magnificently fill the breach. On Day 2, he had initially stemmed the tide with a restrictive spell of bowling after India’s openers had got off to a quick start, then he claimed the wicket of Rohit Sharma to further peg back Kohli’s side.
But on Day 3 he upped his game even more. Kane Williamson started the day with Boult and Jamieson and the lanky pacer rewarded him with the early wicket of Kohli.
As Jamieson had been trying to ensure that the Indian batsmen couldn’t drive too many deliveries, he had abstained from pitching too many deliveries up to them. As was said during the TV broadcast, right up to the 67th over of the innings, the right-armer had bowled just six deliveries which would have hit the stumps at the Indian batsmen.
But then, he suddenly pitched one up and it almost seemed to take Kohli, who is also Jamieson’s skipper at the Royal Challengers Bangalore, by surprise. Kohli couldn’t react in time and was trapped leg-before the wicket. He went up for the review but it didn’t help.
That’s the thing about Jamieson though. He surprises batsmen. On Day 2, Shubman Gill was standing out of his crease to counter the swing and he even tried coming down the crease to Jamieson, who isn’t exactly express pace. But the Kiwi pacer countered with a brutal short ball that hit the Indian opener flush on the grill
Gill, to his credit, didn’t back down after that but at the back of his mind, he knew Jamieson could do that too.
He did something similar to Rohit Sharma. The steep bounce that the pacer usually gets from the wicket made the opener hesitant and that little moment of self doubt did the trick for the Kiwis. The feet didn’t quite move and Rohit played away from the body.
The one that got Kohli was a sharp inswinger bowled after a succession of outswingers. It was a set-up and a sign of how he keeps trying things. He isn’t content to keep repeating the same things over and over again. There’s always something different and in helpful conditions, it makes him very difficult to pick.
Pant was kept quiet for 20 balls before Jamieson finally bowled into his pads. The left-hander helped the ball along to the leg-side for his first four, his first runs of the innings. But then a couple of balls later, Jamieson floated one wide and Pant’s eyes lit up. He threw his hands at it but the feet didn’t follow. This wasn’t Chepauk, this was Southampton and the edge flew to the slips.
In essence, it is the little things that make the 26-year-old Jamieson special. He isn’t express pace but with his height he doesn’t need to be. The disconcerting bounce he can extract from the track will always make him a difficult customer and he can make it work for himself just as Curtly Ambrose, Joel Garner and so many others did over the years. The key is knowing when to use the variations and when to keep things simple.
He keeps it tight, is patient and knows that in the long run (which almost every Test is), the approach will bring him rewards. And so far, it doesn’t take a genius to know, it’s working.