Tabraiz Shamsi picked up three Sri Lankan wickets on a superb return to the Test side on the opening day of the first Test at Galle.
Kagiso Rabada’s 4-50 played a major role in hamstringing the Sri Lankan innings, but the bowling performance that captured my attention was that of Shamsi. Playing in only his second Test match – and his first since 2016 – Shamsi slipped smoothly into the Proteas bowling lineup at Galle, attacking the Sri Lankan batters with great control and sending down a number of testing deliveries.
Shamsi ended the innings with figures of 25.4-2-91-3 (econ 3.54) and played a major role in keeping the spin-savvy Sri Lankans in check. He bowled Dhananjaya de Silva with an absolutely beautiful delivery to knock back his off-stump, and had Niroshan Dickwella deceived all ends up to be caught at first slip by Hashim Amla the ball before rain chased the players from the field.
The innings was brought to a close with the wicket of Lakshan Sandakan, as he once again deceived the batsman to give Quinton de Kock an easy stumping. The keeper also took four catches and made a run-out, making for a very productive day for him with the gloves.
Shamsi’s performance proved vital as the more experienced Keshav Maharaj struggled to make an impact during the day, despite being the most economical bowler of the day. Maharaj surrendered just 2.88 runs an over, with Shamsi the next most economical on 3.54.
The first ball after the rain-induced tea break saw Shamsi trap Dilruwan Perera leg before with another beautiful delivery. Surprisingly, the decision was overturned on review as the ball-tracker indicated that the delivery was veering wide of the stumps while, to the naked eye, the ball looked on track to take leg-stump with ease.
Shamsi put in a top stint throughout the innings and, at one point, bowled 20 overs on the trot (if you factor in the tea break), but it was exactly what he needed in terms of getting Test overs (and wickets) under his belt. As a wrist spinner he inevitably dropped a few short and sprinkled some fuller balls into the mix, but despite the handful of wayward deliveries, the batsman struggled to punish him.
The selectors should be pleased with themselves for giving Shamsi the nod for this Test, not to mention delighted at the manner in which he deceived a number of batters with deliveries that would have made Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan proud. Proteas fans – and Shamsi himself – are looking forward to the Sri Lankans’ second innings to see more of the same.
Photo: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images)