A dogged partnership needed something special to break. Virat Kohli handed over the ball to Jasprit Bumrah and he did the rest. A well-set Rassie van der Dussen, who had faced 64 balls by then, could do nothing to that Bumrah special.
The previous delivery provided the set-up, bowled from closer to the stumps and a little fuller. Van der Dussen had played it towards cover. Then, Bumrah went a little wide of the crease, bowled on length, the angle-switch forcing the deception. The batsman thought he had the line covered and shouldered arms, only to see the ball breaking back sharply to hit the top of off stump. Even for a set batsman, it was unplayable, but that’s what Bumrah does, opening up the game for India. This time, he did it to break a gritty 40-run third wicket partnership between Dean Elgar and van der Dussen, bowling what was the Ball of the Match yet.
Bumrah did it to Ollie Pope at the Oval, when England were fighting to eke out a draw in the fourth Test earlier this year. That break-back ball had prompted former Pakistan fast bowler Aqib Javed to compare the Indian quick with Wasim Akram. A rewind to the 1992 World Cup would recapture Akram’s magic, the way he cleaned up Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis – the Lewis’ one was a big break-back – to win the trophy for Pakistan. Bumrah’s impact has been Akram-esque.
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Back in September, after the Oval Test, Javed had offered an insight into Bumrah’s bowling, lauding the bowler’s ability for power generation. “If your foot is perfectly planted (at the time of release), you are using the optimum ground force. Your front knee follows, and has to be ramrod straight. This allows the ground force to go into your limbs. Bumrah does all this perfectly,” Javed had told The Indian Express, adding: “When he is about to release the ball, his arm and right shoulder are at 90 degrees. His right arm is parallel to his shoulder and his front arm is tucking into his (left) ribs. Generating pace depends on how well you lock your front arm into your ribs. The radius he uses from loading to delivery release is copybook.”
Like England, the Proteas’ resolve, too, was neutered by Bumrah’s brilliance at SuperSport Park on Wednesday and no wonder that India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour heaped praise on the team’s biggest match-winner, as he played back van der Dussen’s dismissal. “That’s the quality of the bowler isn’t it? He really set him up well. All of our bowlers bowled well today. They were really on the spot, really bowling well. And Bumrah bowled a superb ball at that stage,” Rathour said.
Stumps on day four in Centurion 🏏
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Bumrah’s cricketing intelligence makes him even more deadly and the minor tweak in the angle to dismiss van der Dussen wasn’t a case in isolation. He had outsmarted Ollie Robinson at Lord’s as well, when the latter, along with Jos Buttler, was threatening to deny India’s victory charge in the final session of the game. Bumrah’s trick then was a brilliantly-disguised slower ball, an off-cutter that had trapped Robinson leg-before and sucked the life out of England’s fight.
Today, a pinpoint yorker to castle nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj in the final ball of the day provided the cherry on the cake. “That was extraordinary bowling and that’s what you expect from somebody like him,” Rathour said.
Captains can make or break a fast bowler and Bumrah has benefited from Kohli’s smart handling of him. After twisting his ankle and bowling just 7.2 overs in the first innings, the captain used his main strike bowler in short bursts in the second, bringing him back towards the fag end of the day, when Bumrah could go full tilt. The deliveries that got wickets were around 143 kph, allowing viewers to ignore the South African broadcaster’s description – “right-arm fast-medium”.