Vihari on Shannon Gabriel: You have to wait, wait and wait

India batsman Hanuma Vihari, who faced Gabriel in his dream series in the Caribbean islands in 2019, assesses the Trinidadian’s stellar show against England.

Shannon Gabriel has played more Tests than T20Is in his career.   -  Getty Images

Shannon Gabriel became the first bowler to bag a wicket in the COVID-19 era on day one of the first Test against England at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. It’s a strange first in cricket, but the West Indies pacer wouldn’t complain. He picked up three more to finish at 4/62 as the tourists restricted England to 204 on Thursday. 

Skipper Jason Holder (6/42) led the show but the Trinidadian kept the Englishmen on a tight leash.

READ | Eng vs WI: How Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford prepared for bio-secure Tests

This isn’t about Holder, the all-format player for seven straight years. It is about Gabriel, the six feet two inch monster who returned after an ankle injury lay-off. It is about the West Indian who has played more Tests than T20Is and the bowler who could finish as one of the greats.

Gabriel has been a problem for England. Last year, he troubled them in the Caribbean. But he couldn’t replicate the intensity against India later in 2019, especially when bowling to middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari who had a dream series with two fifties and a hundred at Kingston. The right-arm fast bowler's figures read 3/71 and 1/63 in North Sound while he remained wicketless at Kingston as India whitewashed the West Indies 2-0. 

Vihari, who has been watching the live action on television, praised the paceman and offered advice for the English batsmen. “He is a wicket-taking bowler. He has pace and height. He can intimidate any batsman but I ensured that I left the balls which were not in my area. I tried to wait for the balls patiently. So I waited for him to make a mistake, and I capitalised on that. I was happy I could do that,” Vihari told Sportstar.

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Hanuma Vihari made his debut in England two years ago.   -  AP

 

England struggled against Gabriel’s angle and subtle finger work. Pace, of course, is a constant. Among the class deliveries, the one to Joe Denly that angled in to kiss the top of off is a highlight. That was over 90 miles per hour. Soon, he sent down a toe-crusher to trap left-hander Rory Burns in front of the stumps.

“That’s what he does. He comes in hard. He has the pace so he pushes the batsman on the back-foot and tries to pitch it up. You may have seen how he got Burns today. He was trying to bowl the yorker. He will try to push you back and bowl a really full one. You have to wait, wait and wait,” added Vihari, who made his debut in England two years ago.

READ | England vs West Indies: A rivalry steeped in history and greatness

This England side doesn’t have Joe Root, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. It remains to be seen how it handles the four-pronged pace attack comprising Gabriel, Holder, Alzarri Joseph and Kemar Roach from here on. “It is easy to get intimidated by the quality of bowlers but I was really confident of my skills when I was in England,” Vihari remembered the time when he had to face Stuart Broad and James Anderson.

Gabriel is currently ranked 19th in the ICC top Test bowlers' list. He is right between Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. In 45 Tests, he picked up 133 wickets at a strike-rate of 54.3.

The Southampton show is a fresh start for the gun bowler who represents the region that produced champions such as Ian Bishop and Mervyn Dillon.

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