Why has Zampa become such a threat?
Anil Kumble and Steve Harmison on the reasons behind the legspinner’s success
Jos Buttler danced down the pitch to a wide legbreak and swung hard on the line of the ball, flicking his back leg as the ball flew into the upper tier of the Dubai International Stadium. Two overs later, he hit an even bigger six back over the bowler’s head then hit one; Jonny Bairstow is on strike, and he hits consecutive sixes.
This was the story then when Adam Zampa played against England. After that night in Dubai, he took four wickets in four T20Is against them while conceding nearly 11 runs per over; across his first five ODIs against them, he took two wickets at 133.50. He might be good against reruns, but not against this side.
But the Zampa who fielded against England in Ahmedabad on Saturday night was a very different bowler to the one who had previously been milked and beaten in equal measure – and England were a very different team to the side that set the standard for the rest. part. world, full of self-confidence and courage.
Zampa bowls straighter, faster and flatter than before, and has reached a point where he has complete confidence in where he will put the ball. “I would say tonight was as satisfying as it feels after an ODI, in terms of my 10 overs,” he said. “My height control is as good as it’s ever been.”
These are tough conditions for a legspinner. There were signs of dew when Zampa arrived in the 12th over, and for most of his spell he found himself bowling to Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali: overall, 45 of the 60 balls he bowled were for no-outs. .
This means he relies heavily on his googlies and rarely strays from a good length or a straight line, targeting the top of the stumps. It was a simple plan, but England gave Zampa little reason to change things: not only did they fail to hit a boundary in his 10-over spell, they didn’t even manage to hit in a two from him.
It was Buttler who finally tried to hit him on his length, skip down and aim to launch him at long-on, as if trying to rekindle the spirit of that dreadful night in Dubai. However, it was Zampa who came out on top, roaring as loud as he could in celebration as Cameron Green took a simple catch.
He was so consistent with his stock ball that any deviation from it seemed to bring a wicket. The ball that got Stokes was perhaps his worst of the night, sliding down the leg side and being swept well to short fine leg; he tosses one to Moeen, who drives it to deep midwicket.
He finished with incredible figures of 3 for 21, the cheapest spell of his ODI career by far. Australia’s decision to pick a lone frontline spinner in their World Cup squad was a calculated gamble: with 19 wickets in seven matches, the selectors were quid.
Although these Australian players are very different from their predecessors in character, there is an underlying machismo: most of the squad used their days off at the start of the week to take golf seriously, then explained Glenn Maxwell’s injury . by saying that “boys will be boys” and that they “need a mom to go around”.
But Zampa is a different personality. He calls golfers “floggers” and stays in Dharamsala with his family. “It’s great,” he said. “I put on a few coats, and found myself in the hills. I just walked a few treks… I was a recluse for a few days.”
He never worked on his batting, and he barely got the whole tour. You wouldn’t know it from his innings at No. 10, a crucial 29 off 19 balls that included a straight drive from a 92mph Mark Wood rocket, a pull for four from Chris Woakes and a pull at wide long- on from David Willey.
When it was all over, he took a field blinder to see the back of Willey, ran 25 meters from deep fine leg to square leg and dived under for a spectacular catch. “I mean, I’m not known as the best fielder in the world,” Zampa said, “but it’s satisfying to work on things and things like that. It’s a good feeling.”
Zampa used to be the bowler that England’s batters lined up to beat. On Sunday, he heads to Mumbai with Buttler, Stokes and Moeen in his pocket – and as the leading wicket-taker in this World Cup.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98