Bowling ’em over, glamorously
It was just a 25-ball stay eventually but Jasprit Bumrah’s night out with the bat appeared to be a battle with himself more than the bowlers. For every shot he tried, and miscued, he knew what the right one was a few moments later as he shadow-practiced it with gusto, be it the cut, pull or the loft straight down. He knew it all, only a trifle late. Nevertheless, he managed to contribute 16 of the 21 runs India added late in their innings. At that moment, it still felt that India could be short of a par total as Rohit Sharma would admit later. Or so everyone were led to believe.
Bumrah, with the new ball, was in stark contrast to what he was with the bat. Now he knew exactly what he was trying to do, and if the ball was doing what he wanted. Like on his best days, he knew what LBW appeals to go strong for. Early in his spell he was quick to back out of an LBW review against Dawid Malan, indicating to his captain that the ball was moving away. As replays confirmed after a few minutes, Bumrah’s slanted seam was indeed taking the ball across Malan, having pitched well outside legstump as well. Even as the close-in fielders looked around at each other, Bumrah was returning to the top of his mark with no interest in calling for a review. As much as India needed an early breakthrough, Bumrah knew that this was not it.Not yet.
That would come in the next over. For this next trick, Bumrah would switch to round the wicket and have the ball shaping away to the left-hander, an almost impossible angle to play given his action. As Bumrah kept shaping them away, Malan also managed to squeeze one through the offside for a boundary. Unfluttered, Bumrah continued for he knew when he’d get one punch back in, in a literal sense. When he did get one to go straighter with the angle, Malan chopped on and Bumrah jogged across to his roaring team-mates, ever so calm with an air of having seen it all in his head all along.
A throaty celebration, however, followed as he soon had Joe Root trapped LBW for a golden duck. Unlike Malan’s wicket which was a death by a dozen slits, this one was a knockout punch even as the opponent was entering. The set-up had probably been long coming, for India have faced England often enough to know Root’s strengths and Bumrah went fuller with an angle than he’d done before in the innings to catch Root falling over.
Rarely do plans and tactics come good for bowlers just as they had envisioned. When you’re in the class of Bumrah, however, these take the shape of being an everyday business. Just like with the bat, on this day and especially in those moments, Bumrah appeared to have his own internal games, with the result being a by-product of his fantasies.
Just as Bumrah got done with his masterclass, England had the misfortune of being subjected to another at the other end. Mohammed Shami, in competition now with Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj already, brought out his best wares to train the spotlight on himself. In some eyes, unjustifiably, Shami has been pushed down to third in India’s pecking order for attacking fast bowlers. It’d be fair to say that by the end of this game, and on the back of a five-fer, he’d gotten back up to second.
To get there though, Shami had to remind everyone, just why he has the best strike-rate amongst all in World Cup history. The set-up and the eventual dismissal of Ben Stokes is something that will be in his highlights reel forever. All 10 balls that Stokes faced were off Shami, steaming in from round the wicket, and predominantly shaping it away. Stokes left, tried to cut and missed, tried to defend and missed, tried to step out and missed, slapped one without timing and out of frustration before Shami put him off his misery – forcing an ugly swipe and missing. It was a working over from the books of Test cricket. Just as the one that nipped in off the ever upright seam to bowl Jonny Bairstow, bat-pad.
For two games in a row now, Shami came close to having hat-tricks in two separate World Cups but fell short of it, just as Bumrah missed his first. The records might have been missed but new chartbusters were released, and thumping ones at that.
The last two balls of Shami’s spell were shown to be upwards of 138kph, which went against the naked eye’s judgment. By then, Shami was visibly tired in the run-up as he finished with one that went on the second bounce to the ‘keeper. Soon after finishing it, Shami had a quick glance towards Rohit indicating that he was done, and walked off without looking towards his appreciative captain. The dugout beside the boundary rope was chosen over the long flight up the stairs as he plonked himself on a chair even as helpful support staff placed a towel on his head. The cameras would later capture a gleeful Shami, with pants pulled up to his knees, cooling his heels and enjoying the moment after having given it his all in a spell of 4-1-5-2.
As England lost 10/4, a period of play which their coach Matthew Mott saw as when England “unravelled”, India found theirs coming together all so well. Kuldeep Yadav would follow it up with a magical delivery to Jos Buttler before the duo came back to strike the death knells. Soon after knocking over the last wicket with a perfect yorker, Bumrah walked across to Shami with an arm around his shoulder and joking all the way as they reached the boundary ropes for the handshakes.
Perhaps, they were reminiscing the set-ups, or perhaps he aplogised to his partner for denying him a second successive five-fer, or him being hit for sixes by the lower-order. Those speculations could be left to the romantics. But what they managed to create together then was to make sure that India’s bowling strength was as talked about as their batting has been through the tournament.
In every game, the bowling group has had a lion’s share of credit for the victories, only for the likes of Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma to out-glamour their contributions slightly. On a day when the latter produced another masterclass, it was the turn of this duo to train the spotlight back on them, deservedly.