Auckland: Speedster Zaheer Khan on Saturday lauded his junior team-mate Mohammed Shami for his fiery spell on the third day of the first cricket Test against New Zealand, saying he is a "match-winner" for Team India.
Shami put on display a fine exhibition of swing and seam bowling to take 3/37 and help bundle out the hosts for a paltry 105 in their second innings. (Scorecard | Match report | Highlights | Day 3 in pics)
"He's a great prospect for Team India and has had some brilliant performances. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a match-winner. That is the way I look at him. A good bowler has this quality to take wickets in bunches, that is what defines a good bowler, and Shami has shown that quality. With experience he is only going to get better," Zaheer said at the post-match presser here.
"It was a brilliant performance from all the bowlers. As a bowling unit, we clicked together. The important thing was that we had some brilliant catching as well in the slip cordon and that was very crucial and it really made the difference," he added.
India face a daunting task of scoring 407 runs to win the first Test against the Black Caps, who suffered a dramatic batting collapse at Eden Park to leave the match wide open.
All front-line bowlers chipped in on the day, with Ishant Sharma taking 3-28 and Zaheer himself returning 2-23 to bring India back in the game.
Ravindra Jadeja was the other wicket-taker with figures of 1-10. In turn, this gave Ishant match-figures of 9-162 and the senior pro praised him as well, while talking about the difference in the bowling performances in the two innings.
"Short bowling was our plan in the first innings as we wanted to be aggressive as a bowling unit. Bowling bouncers was an aggressive plan for us. In the second innings, we went in with the approach that we have to focus on bowling the right areas and it worked for us," Zaheer said.
"Ishant has come a long way and it is important that he picks up wickets. He has been around for a while. He has the potential to create an impact at this level and I am happy that he's among the wickets," he said.
Zaheer exuded confidence that India still have a chance to win the Test match and go 1-0 up in the two-Test series.
"It's good that we have seen off the new ball today and tomorrow hopefully will be a better day for us. The pitch is looking good and what got to them was pressure and disciplined bowling by our bowlers. I don't think the pitch has changed a great deal and it is looking better if at all.
"The momentum is with us and we will look to capitalise on that. We have got a good start today and it's important to start well tomorrow morning," he said.
The veteran pacer explained that with the Kookaburra ball, it's important to get the early breakthroughs and with the new ball, there is always help in the offing.
"Everyone chipped in with wickets. It was crucial because when you have to get the opposition out for low scores, then everyone has to chip in. The last time this happened was in Trinidad in 2002, when all the bowlers took three wickets each," he said, adding that India went on to win that match in the West Indies, and they are in a similar position of strength here.