India vs England, T20I series


A decade on from his success in the role for South Australia, Rashid has emerged as an option in the powerplay

Ten years have passed since Adil Rashid’s first incarnation as an opening bowler in T20 cricket. As a fresh-faced 22-year-old, he formed part of a three-pronged South Australia attack in the final season of the state-based Big Bash alongside Aaron O’Brien and Nathan Lyon and was thrown the new ball in the last few games of the tournament.

“I’m going to go back to Yorkshire and tell them all about this,” Rashid told the Guardian at the time. “We’re encouraged to take the pace off the ball and to mix up our deliveries, so I bowl legbreaks, googlies, sliders, the lot – anything to avoid being predictable.”

True to his word, Rashid returned to county cricket and was entrusted with bowling the first over in the Friends Life T20 in 2011. But after some initial success – he took 13 wickets in Yorkshire’s first five games – the wickets dried up, and he was taken to pieces by Andrew McDonald towards the end of the group stage. One last try in the role followed for South Australia in the 2011-12 Champions League, but as he developed into a canny middle-overs operator over the next few years, it seemed like that would be the final time in his career that he would be seen bowling the first over.

That was, at least, until Friday night. With England struggling for powerplay wickets in their recent T20I outings and India’s middle order particularly strong against spin, Eoin Morgan threw Rashid the new ball under the Ahmedabad floodlights. Perhaps the move had been pre-planned in the expectation that India would field an exclusively right-handed top four, but with Shikhar Dhawan picked ahead of the rested Rohit Sharma, Rashid managed to cramp the left-hander for room as he went through his repertoire of variations and landed the ball on a good length in a first over which cost only two runs.

In his second, Rashid delivered the key wicket. As Virat Kohli backed away to the leg side, Rashid followed him with a flat length ball, pushed through a fraction quicker than usual at 55.7mph/89.7kph towards the top of leg stump. Kohli’s bat turned in his hand, and he failed to clear Chris Jordan at mid-off. Rashid returned to bowl the 11th, finishing with impressive figures of 1 for 14 from his three overs.

Ball-tracking data suggests that Rashid extracted only limited turn off the pitch, but his subtle changes of pace and the two-paced nature of the surface meant that India were unable to go after him. While Rashid generally spins the ball sharply, his method on Friday night evoked that of Samuel Badree, the only legspinner to have made a success of bowling the first over of T20 internationals on a consistent basis and a two-time World T20 winner with West Indies.