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Zaheer Khan vs Graeme Smith — A tale of dominance of ball over bat

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Over the years, Zaheer Khan (above) has dismissed South African opener Graeme Smith 13 out of 25 times, the two have faced-off against each other across formats © Getty Images

 

Zaheer Khan has dismissed Graeme Smith 13 times in 25 meetings across formats. Nishad Pai Vaidya revisits the battle, as it takes shape yet again.

 

When Zaheer Khan was included in India’ Test side for the tour to South Africa, a lot of the talk was about his battle with the South African skipper — Graeme Smith. Having faced-off for more than eleven years, it is the Indian left-arm pacer who has had the better of the South African opener, as he has dismissed him 13 times in 25 matches across formats. As India and South Africa gear up for the two-match Test series, will Zaheer add to his tally? Or, would the South African captain finally get the better of a 35-year-old — Zaheer?

 

Zaheer has always enjoyed bowling to left-handers and has particularly troubled this breed. He has troubled some of the best left-handed batsmen in the business and accounted for their wickets many times. However, Smith leads the list and there is something about their battle that catches the eye. A world-class batsman looks tentative to Zaheer and isn’t able to chalk out a strategy to face him. Here is a list of the batsmen, Zaheer has dismissed the most number of times in international cricket:

 

 Player

M

Dismissals

Graeme Smith (SA)

25

13

Kumar Sangakkara (SL)

51

11

Sanath Jayasuriya (SL)

36

10

Matthew Hayden (Aus)

29

10

Mahela Jayawardena (SL)

54

9

 

One can see that four out of Zaheer’s top five victims are left-handers. One name that doesn’t feature in this list is another left-hander — Andrew Strauss. The former England captain fell to Zaheer seven times in as many games. But, just one look at this table does tell you how effective he has been against Smith. While the other batsmen have faced Zaheer in more games, but have fallen to him fewer times than Smith has. Here is a break-up of Smith’s dismissals against Zaheer:

 

Mode of Dismissal No of Times Dismissed
Bowled

3

Caught

6

Leg-Before

4

Total

13

 

Let us now revisit the dismissals:

 

Smith caught Yuvraj Singh, bowled Zaheer for 4 — ICC Champions Trophy, Colombo, 2002.

 

The first major duel between the two came during the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka in 2002. South Africa were chasing 262 to win and Smith opened the batting. In the third over, he tried to play him uppishly over point, but Yuvraj Singh jumped it the air, leapt high and clutched it with both hands to complete a magnificent catch. India had their man early in the innings and went on to win a remarkable contest by strangling the Proteas. It was Yuvraj’s day, as he took brilliant catches.

 

Smith lbw, bowled Zaheer  for 1 — South Africa vs India, 2nd ODI, Durban, 2006

 

This was Zaheer’s comeback match into the Indian side after a gruelling but rewarding season in County Circuit. Bowling the second over of the game, he started poorly with two wides. However, he got it spot-on in his fourth attempt, as the ball moved into Smith and trapped him plumb in front of the stumps. That was the beginning of a South African summer that saw Zaheer torment Smith.

 

Smith bowled Zaheer for 0 — South Africa vs India, 3rd ODI, Cape Town, 2006

 

When Smith took first strike, Rahul Dravid threw the ball to Zaheer knowing that he had accounted for his scalp in the previous game. This time around, Zaheer fashioned a different dismissal, as he drew Smith to play forward with a fullish delivery that disturbed the woodwork. Smith had to walk back to the pavilion for no score.

 

Smith lbw, bowled Zaheer for 0 — South Africa vs India, 4th ODI, Port Elizabeth, 2006

 

By now, Smith knew that he had a serious problem on his hands and that he had to do something to counter Zaheer. So, off the third ball of the innings, he tried to give him the charge and missed, as he tried to work the ball away. The ball hit him on the pads and the umpire had no hesitation in ruling him out. Another duck, another triumph for Zaheer.

 

Smith lbw, bowled Zaheer for 16 — South Africa vs India, Only T20 International, Johannesburg, 2006

Zaheer was all over Smith irrespective of the format. As Smith looked for quick runs in the Twenty20 International (T20I) and moved to 16, India persisted with Zaheer, as that was their best chance of getting Smith early. The South African skipper was trapped in front yet again, as he missed the one that angled at the stumps.

 

Smith caught Tendulkar, bowled Zaheer for 5 — South Africa vs India, 2nd Test, Durban, 2006

 

It was quite surprising that there was a huge gap between the fourth and the fifth dismissal that summer. Between the only T20I and the second Test, Smith got through the fifth ODI at Centurion and two innings in the first Test at Johannesburg without falling to Zaheer. But, come Durban, Zaheer was to get him out again. When Zaheer pitched it short, Smith’s eyes lit up and he tried to pull. Instead, the ball took the edge and flew towards third-man. Sachin Tendulkar ran behind from the slip-cordon and took a good catch to end Smith’s innings for five.

 

Smith caught Karthik bowled Zaheer for 55 — South Africa vs India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 2007

 

As South Africa chased 211 in the fourth innings at Cape Town to win the Test and the series, Zaheer was trying to make things tougher for the top-order. Smith moved along to 55, before his nemesis got him out. He edged one outside the off-stump to Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps. However, India couldn’t stop the Proteas and returned home disappointed after leading the series at one point. On a personal front, Zaheer picked Smith six times during the summer.

 

Smith bowled Zaheer for 6 — India vs South Africa, 1st Test, Nagpur, 2010

 

Three years on, the battle resumed in Nagpur. Zaheer showed who is boss first up when he rattled Smith’s stumps in the first innings of the first Test. Smith couldn’t stop one that moved in and shattered his stumps. South Africa, though, went on to win the Test thanks to a double-ton by Hashim Amla and a big hundred by Jacques Kallis.

 

Smith bowled Zaheer for 4 — India vs South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata, 2010

 

By now, Zaheer had taken a liking for Smith’s stumps. A few days after the first Test at Nagpur, the two teams faced off at Kolkata with South Africa batting first again. Zaheer sounded the war-horns with one that moved into Smith, yet again, and pegged back the stumps.

 

Smith caught MS Dhoni bowled Zaheer for 9 — South Africa vs India, 2nd Test, Durban, 2010

 

Zaheer missed the first Test at Centurion, but was back for the second at Durban. This time, Smith did get some bat onto an incoming one, but instead, it flew off the edge to Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps. Zaheer’s inclusion fostered a change, as India won the game.

 

Smith lbw bowled Zaheer for 6 — South Africa vs India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 2011

 

The incoming deliveries would have given Smith nightmares by now, as he had no idea. It had become a psychological block by then, as he was trapped leg-before yet again during the third Test at Cape Town.

 

Smith caught Yusuf Pathan bowled Zaheer for 7 — South Africa vs India, 5th ODI, Centurion, 2011

 

Zaheer had foxed Smith with his movement since time immemorial. Now, deliveries that were away from the stumps were also a problem for him. Zaheer pitched it outside theoff-stump and had Smith poking at it. Yusuf Pathan took the catch at second slip.

 

Smith caught Tendulkar bowled Zaheer for 16 — India vs South Africa, ICC Cricket World Cup, Nagpur, 2011

 

After a shocking collapse saw India bowled out for 296, South Africa was eyeing victory. Smith and Hashim Amla started off well and were moving smoothly. However, Smith gifted his wicket away to Zaheer, as he lofted one straight into the hands of Tendulkar at mid-off.

 

Will Zaheer add more to this list by the end of the tour? It is fascinating that six out of the 13 dismissals came during the 2006-07 series and then he got Smith out six more times in 2010 and 2011 respectively, when the two sides toured each other’s territories. If the Indian batting line-up bats well, Zaheer is assured four more shots at Smith this time.

 

All figures noted until the Third One-Day International between India and South Africa on December 11, 2013.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

 

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