Shoriful finds balance in skill and aggression
Shoriful Islam thrived in his first outing in the Afghanistan ODI series, notching career-best figures to dismantle the Afghanistan top-order in the third and final match of the series.
Aggression is what keeps fast bowlers ticking and when the left-arm paceman played the U-19 World Cup for Bangladesh there was plenty of that on view, especially in their triumph against India in the final. However, internationals give one a reality check. Shoriful had told this reporter ahead of the series: "Aggression is fine but you also need to put the ball in the right areas."
This time, he did that with great consistency and picked up a four-for.
Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmanullah Gurbaz had completely taken the game away from the Tigers in the second ODI with a 256-run partnership.
On this occasion, Shoriful, coming in with the new ball, created the angle from which the ball shaped away just enough to remove the dangerous Zadran in the first delivery of the third over.
"Ibrahim bhai is a good batsman. I tried to give my best delivery at that time since I got him out three times previously. I had confidence that maintaining line and length would get me the wicket," the pacer said at the press conference.
The extra bounce he often gets soon took the visiting top-order by surprise.
Rahmat Shah would have been gone three deliveries into his innings when he top-edged a length delivery, but it just escaped Mehedi Miraz at backward point. There was no such respite for Rahmat off the next delivery.
A perfect back-of-a-length delivery left Rahmat without a clue about where the ball actually was. He hung his bat only to get an inside edge on to Mushfiqur Rahim's gloves.
Shoriful again found the angle to beat Mohammad Nabi's inside edge, shaping it in from just outside the off-stump to trap the batter in front. He would return to the attack later and bag Abdul Rahman, leaving Afghanistan seven down for 68.
The key point was how they planned and executed. When pace-bowling coach Allan Donald was asked if going short was the plan, he said: "Very much so. We felt we really undersold ourselves in the second ODI by not being that aggressive and by not going short. We needed to get the conservative thought process off our shoulders and come in really hard today, which I thought we did very well."
Aggression was key to Shoriful's early success, but this time he used his arsenal to good effect. A career-best four for 21 in ODIs came from accuracy as well and he had worked on that with head coach Chandika Hathurusingha, especially the rising deliveries.
"In the last few days, I was practising quite a bit. I talked to Hathu sir and he worked with me especially, doing extra work. When I was at home, he provided me with bowling drill videos and I was doing those things in practice. By doing those again and again, I applied it in the match today with how I got them to rise," he said.
"It wasn't anger," he said of his performance. "Body language comes automatically no matter how I try to control myself," he pinpointed. This time it was about accuracy together with aggression.