Tim Southee has prior knowledge of Indian conditions and a team of expert coaching staff to plan his attack. Yet, it took him a day to fully show his wares on a pitch that assisted the fast bowlers. If Kyle Jamieson profited from the swing on offer on Day One, Southee impressed with both seam and swing bowling on Day Two, using the crease effectively to create angles and trap the batter with three distinct types of deliveries.
Both Jamieson and Southee found swing with both the new and the old ball, and took wickets with both. But Southee’s performance on the first day was perhaps hampered by his inability to obtain swing in his second and third spells which significantly reduced his threat. He got the odd delivery to seam away (or in) after pitching, but the set batters in Ajinkya Rahane, Shubman Gill and later Shreyas were able to hand that.
That he got the set Pujara out with a seaming delivery does indeed suggest that he was still not easy to get away.
On Friday, though, everything was in his favour: he got the ball to swing (did a change in ends do the trick?) – conventional and reverse – and the lower middle-order wasn’t so skilful after all. Jadeja, Saha, Shreyas and Axar all succumbed to his incantation.
Southee confirmed after the day’s play that his expertise with the old ball and his experience of bowling in India – he was part of New Zealand’s 2012 tour of India, taking a seven-for in one of the Tests – had indeed helped.
“It’s just a shift I made without really knowing,” he said, talking about the improvement in his bowling with the old ball.
“But obviously training and working a lot harder with an older ball [did help]. You bowl the majority of your balls with an older ball, so just that shift in training to bowling more with an older ball. When it swings, my main skills is swinging so you are more dangerous but [it is about] still finding a way to be a threat with the older ball,” he explained.
And what made his feat remarkable was the fact that he had to switch to the red-ball format in quick time, as he was a part of the T20 series that finished less than a week before the Test series. Southee, however, found a little more time to train with the red ball as he didn’t play the final T20, and he also carried a red-ball with him during the series to mentally prepare himself for the task ahead.
“It’s something that modern players have to do. If you’re playing multi-formats it’s something you have to adjust to. There are a couple of trainings throughout the T20 stuff, even though it was white ball I just concentrated on grooving my action knowing that there were Test matches to come. I’ve been able to not play the last T20 and to have a couple of weeks (sic) to train with the red ball was better preparation than I thought I was going to have,” he said.
When asked how he was able to bowl so well in conditions foreign to him, he underlined his principle: “Something that’s stayed constant is just the awareness to get better, awareness to keep trying things in this part of the world which is a bit foreign to what we’re used to. It is a great place to be when you do well in tough conditions. [I have] the love of playing for New Zealand and the want to play more and more along with the want to get better as well.”