The most satisfying wicket of my career
It’s very rare that a specific plan for a batter ever comes off exactly the way you hope.
We always hold a team meeting before a Test series and formulate different strategies for specific players. The bowlers will all sit down together, go through footage of the opposition, figure out who their best batsmen are and talk about ways to get them out.
More often than not, the classic ‘hit the top of off stump, bowl the odd bouncer’ does the trick. When we come up with something a little more intricate, you leave the meeting thinking ‘this plan is great', and then as soon as you get out into the heat of battle, you realise how good the batsman actually is.
So when I think about which is the most satisfying wicket of my career, getting England’s Test skipper out on the opening day of an Ashes series with the perfect plan is hard to top.
In our pre-series meeting, Joe Root stood out as someone we needed to get on top of. He was their captain, their highest ranked batsman and he’d had a lot of success over the last couple of years, especially against Australia.
One of the keys for our bowling attack that series was (and still is) to start really well against a new batsman. Especially with the best players like Root, you can't just give him runs when he’s trying to get familiar with the conditions. We wanted to really make him work hard for the first 10 or 20 runs.
That day at the Gabba, England held the upper hand as the final session got underway. But we started well to Joe and the ball was actually swinging conventionally. It was late on the first day and while I'd bowled a more than a few overs, I still had plenty of energy. I can remember running in hard, trying to bowl as fast as I could with the crowd behind me.
We had a specific plan for Joe. We'd observed that he can sometimes play across his front pad and we knew he’d been out lbw quite a few times in the past. There’s no doubt he’s one of the best batsmen in the world, but this was something we thought we could exploit.
Our strategy was to see if we could drag him across the crease over and over again, getting him used to moving his front foot across his stumps. Once he was in the routine of moving his weight that way, at the right moment we wanted to fire one in at the stumps. It was hardly rocket science and others have no doubt tried it against him before. But with bowlers operating at extreme pace, you only need him to be a little late on it.
I had bowled a couple overs of outswingers at him. He was really patient and leaving the ball well. I can't speak for him but I know when I'm batting, I'm always pretty eager to hit the ball – you want to feel ball on bat. It's only natural.
It’s a game of cat and mouse. I'm trying to get him to chase the ball outside his eyeline but he’s being patient. Leaving, leaving and leaving. After two or three overs of that, I remember thinking, ‘it’s time’.
The inswinger back into the right-hander looks fantastic when it comes off, but it’s also a pretty high risk delivery. You've got to get your wrist in the perfect position and if you don't get it right, often the ball can just float out or you can push it way down the leg-side.
Overs of good work can be undone with just one bad ball.
In that moment though, it just felt right. I could see him setting up for the outswinger every ball. With my heart racing a little faster than normal, I fired in the inswinger. If it came off, I’d look like a genius. If it didn’t, well, the skipper might have had something to say.
Thankfully, it landed in just the right spot. It was full, hit the front pad and judging by how he’d lost his balance, it must have caught him by surprise.
We all went up for a huge appeal but umpire Marais Erasmus didn't give it out! I remember thinking, 'come on Marais, that's plumb’. Fortunately, we reviewed and ball-tracker showed it was hitting the stumps.
A plan coming off just like that – I reckon it happens once in every five years.
As a fast bowler, it doesn’t get any better.