“Yes, there will be odd days when he bowls 20 no-balls or sprays six consecutive balls down the leg-side but when on song, Gabriel can make the best of Test batsmen weak on the legs”
TWENTY no-balls in nine overs!
The staggering number would force any team to check if their bowler was literally blind for it seemed like he just couldn’t get his foot behind the line. Shannon Gabriel’s first outing in England in 2017 was marred by controversy as he sent down 20 no-balls in nine overs against a second-string Derbyshire side. This included three no-balls on the trot and an 11 ball over!
That wasn’t the first time Gabriel was spotted to have a problem with no-balls. In Australia, in 2015, he had attracted attention for overstepping by a shocking margin. Yet, even when West Indies sat him out of the first Test of that England tour, Gabriel was back in whites for the second Test at Leeds, playing a crucial role in taking the attack to the English and helping them win the Test.
West Indies vs Sri Lanka, second Test St Lucia
Sri Lanka second innings
Over 33.4 – Shannon Gabriel to Dinesh Chandimal
Skiddy and disconcerting as he is, Gabriel manages to get his bouncer at Chandimal’s throat. The edge flew off the splice of the bat and the gully fielder holds onto the catch. Kusal Mendis at the non-striker’s end presses the on-field umpire to check for the no-ball, well aware of Gabriel’s habit of over-stepping. Tada! He has indeed over-stepped!
A crucial passage of play in the ongoing Sri Lankan series, saw Gabriel denied a wicket, not once but twice in one over. He had Dinesh Chandimal trapped in front but the umpire failed to raise his finger and the Windies were hesitant to review. Two balls later he had the Sri Lankan skipper and their most successful batsman on tour, fending to gully but he had overstepped.
Roach would go on to dismiss Chandimal, but Gabriel extracted revenge on Kusal Mendis who spotted his front foot no-ball. A skiddy, pacy delivery on the stumps moved in a touch to catch the Sri Lankan youngster on his back foot. The ball crashed into the stumps to signal Gabriel’s backlash. And how it went!
He dismantled the Lankans, dismissing their lower middle-order firefighters, Roshen Silva and Niroshan Dickwella, with peaches. Six of the eight wickets to fall went to Gabriel. He had broken the backbone of this Lankan batting with his pace and fire.
That is the thing about Gabriel. When he is on song, he consumes batting line-ups on a whole like a python. There is this innate ability to make an impact in the game with his sheer pace and ability to ruffle a few feathers with disconcerting bounce and movement.
Gabriel been looking good for a while now, bowling a heavy ball and FAST! #10fer
— Dale Steyn (@DaleSteyn62) June 17, 2018
When West Indies beat Sri Lanka last week, he bowled his heart out, without getting too much of a reward. He was constantly at the batsmen, peppering them with relentless aggression and bending his back to generate pace. The scorecards show anything but that. While Gabriel’s average and returns over a period of time suggests he is an average Test bowler, truth be told, the West Indian can proudly be considered among the elite fast bowlers of modern Test cricket for the sheer amount of chances he creates.
It is rare when there isn’t a stamp of Gabriel in West Indian wins over the last two years. Cricviz analysis shows he is the third-fastest bowler in Tests in the past decade, behind Australians, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson.
In this decade the only two pace bowlers who have been consistently faster than Shannon Gabriel in Test cricket have been Australia's left-armers Mitchell Starc & Mitchell Johnson. In this period four of the world's fastest five bowlers have been Australian. #WIvSL pic.twitter.com/zxganKSdEZ
— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) June 8, 2018
He was pivotal in West Indies’ win over Pakistan in UAE in 2016, dismissing Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq in the very first over of Pakistan’s first innings. He finished with 3/67, not telling figures but again the impact he made in destabilizing the opposition in the very first over cannot be underrated.
He added a 4/81 in the second innings, cleaning up Pakistan’s tail with a fiery spell of fast bowling when the sub-continental side came down to West Indies for the return series. Gabriel finished them off with a mind-blowing spell of 11-4-11-5 in the second innings to bowl Pakistan out for 81 and win West Indies the Test.
At Leeds, he made a comeback to the side for the second Test after the no-ball issues and immediately made a mark by grabbing 4/71 in the first innings. He followed it up with two crucial wickets in the second innings, dismissing two of England’s half-centurions including the skipper, Joe Root.
In Port of Spain last week, he yet again made an impact, dismissing Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal, two of Sri Lanka’s best batsmen on this tour.
In wins, Gabriel has taken 41 wickets in 11 Tests at a spectacular average of 23.14 and strike rate of 46.4. His ability to stamp his presence against big opposition in big moments makes him the bowler West Indies so sorely missed since the retirements of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.
Yes, there will be odd days when he bowls 20 no-balls or sprays six consecutive balls down the leg-side but when on song, Gabriel can make the best of Test batsmen weak on the legs. He can devour teams in one big gulp. His ability to make the ball skid off the surface like he is bowling on marble makes him exciting, unpredictable and a real tough customer to face over five days of cricket. There is a West Indian renaissance on and Gabriel, by all means, is pioneering the movement from the bowling group.