In Devendra Bishoo, the West Indies have found a man to exploit Australia’s frailties against spin bowling – provided his red, raw spinning finger can cope with the punishment of long spells like his 6 for 80 on day two of the Dominica Test match.
Those figures made Bishoo the first West Indian legspinner to claim five wickets against Australia, surpassing the returns of others including his Guyanese mentor, Mahendra Nagamootoo. He did it with flight, spin and variations in pace that flummoxed Australia’s top order until Adam Voges and the touring tail mounted the staunchest of rearguards to change the game.
“I would say that I wanted to start off the series very well,” Bishoo said. “I got six wickets today so I got a good start. I just have to keep on doing what I’m doing and finish off the series very well too. I’ve got a good start and I just have to capitalise on it.
“I knew Dominica was going to spin a bit. The last four-day match I played here I got 10 wickets in the match. So I knew it was going to spin, but the wicket can be how you want it to be. At the end of the day, you’ve got to go out and perform. You’ve got to bowl in the right areas.”
The right areas were epitomised by the delivery that drifted in to Brad Haddin before snapping back past his crease-bound defensive blade to flick off stump. On the 22nd anniversary of Shane Warne’s “Ball from Hell” to Mike Gatting, it was jokingly dubbed “The Ball of the 21st Century”.
But equally impressive was Bishoo’s mastery of length and variation to trap Steven Smith in his first innings at No. 3. Smith jumped down the track successfully to belt Bishoo down the ground for a boundary on the first ball of the 38th over, but when Smith tried to repeat it four balls later he was stranded by a flatter ball that turned expansively.
“A lot of previous balls he was coming,” Bishoo said. “I knew exactly that he was coming. I just had to get it in the right place at the right time.
“Australia are one of the best teams in the world and at the end of the day you have to bowl well and play really good cricket to compete with them. We are not here to compete, we are here to try and win the series.”
How Bishoo performs for the rest of the series may be influenced by the state of his spinning finger. He spent time off the field getting it patched up on day two after it began to bleed, and Bishoo admitted it was a daily battle to get past it. “I can’t do nothing about it,” he said. “I just have to stay tough and keep going forward. I will be fine for next week.”