A run-up consisting of only a few paces: that is all it takes for a spinner to sow seeds of doubt in the batsman's head. The Virat Kohli-Adam Zampa tussle in the second ODI between India and Australia at Rajkot turned out to be one such keenly-fought contest, where the leg-spinner blended the keys to success in a game of chess - patience and pressure - to outsmart his formidable opponent. When Kohli arrived at the crease with the score reading 81/1, Zampa immediately shifted his line to outside the off-stump.
The plan was quite clear: he wanted Kohli to use his strong bottom-hand and drive through the cover-region. The seasoned campaigner began his innings with a neatly played drive through the covers to open his account. But, Zampa stuck to his tried and tested formula through the course of that spell. On the other hand, Kohli also showed that he was willing to play the waiting game. He was more circumspect against Zampa, and also waited for the legspinner to bowl straighter, as he wristed a few around the corner. The point can be capsulised by how Kohli pulled a short delivery in the 18th over off Zampa to the boundary hoardings behind square on the on-side.
With Australia struggling to break partnerships, Aaron Finch went back to Zampa for the second time, and the legspinner didn't disappoint his captain, picking up Shreyas Iyer's wicket. He also continued his enthralling battle with Kohli.
It is said that the most decisive part of a game of chess is the 'middle game' where the two players keep all the possibilities open and look at skilful maneuvering to attain positional mastery. During the middle overs, the Zampa versus Kohli contest in Rajkot moved along on similar lines. Even though Kohli was still patient, dealing in a diet of singles and twos, there were indicators that he was ready to push the accelerator pedal.
Zampa, though, just didn't waver from his plans - employing tossed up deliveries with a few sliders. The way the legspinner forced Kohli to reach out to crack the drive to the cover fielder in the 35th over illustrates the modus operandi of the legspinner. However, Kohli was able to paddle through this decisive phase of the duel between the duo. Cricket Tips
Eventually, when Zampa returned for his final spell, Kohli had no other option but to hit the accelerator pedal in order to take India to a score of around 350. And that also gave Zampa the chance to snare the batting maestro's wicket for the fifth time in his ODI career. Initially, Kohli seemed to be having the upper hand as he swatted the legspinner through midwicket for a boundary. However, Zampa has shown before that he is a spinner ready to take risks by tossing the ball up. In short, he is ready to get smashed to 'buy' a wicket or two.
He was also rewarded for his perseverance when he dismissed Kohli with another flighted delivery in the 44th over. With his strong bottom-hand, Kohli launched one into the downtown territories, but Ashton Agar and Mitchell Starc combined at the boundary to ensure the catch was taken and Kohli had to walk back. Yes, Kohli connected it quite well. Yes, it could have gone for a six on another day. But, Zampa deserves the credit for sticking to his plans. After being slogged for a boundary in the previous over, Zampa could have taken the safer option and bowled with a flatter trajectory. Instead, he showed conviction in his method and was duly rewarded.
Incidentally, before the Rajkot ODI, Zampa had noted: "It's got to be an attacking approach," while asked about a spinner's mindset while bowling to a batsman of the class of Kohli. "I think if you're on the back foot and have a defensive mindset then that's when he can get on top of you."
Coming from the land of leg spin wizardry, there's miles to go for Zampa before he is considered among the pantheon of greats of the game. For now though, when he is bowling, there's a sense of commitment to that one purpose and that one goal - of just trying to outsmart the batsman.