Jasprit Bumrah has silenced his critics by taking a five-wicket haul in Test cricket. He has always been regarded as a limited-over stuff, but after this display at the Wanderers, critics would be sensible enough to judge Bumrah.
A fifer in Test cricket is always special and no words can describe the joy of achieving the maiden Test fifer. Prior to the start of the series, Jasprit Bumrah was widely reckoned for his exploits in the shorter formats, he is undoubtedly one of the best white ball bowlers in contemporary cricket. His selection in the Test squad did surprise many as he was not a part of any First-Class game for a year.
There were questions being raised about his effectiveness, will he be able to replicate similar magic in the longest format of the game? Is he fit enough to bowl those marathon spells? How well and quickly can he make the technical adjustment in order to adjust with the red ball at this level? As of now, it is safe enough to say, that Bumrah has silenced his harshest critics with some brilliance and showed signs of him becoming a deadly red ball bowler.
After an ordinary first innings at Cape Town, Bumrah showed sheer discipline and astuteness in the second innings, picking three wickets. India showed immense faith in his abilities. In the Centurion Test, a Test old Bumrah was retained in the playing XI while Bhuvneshwar Kumar was replaced by Ishant Sharma.
After remaining wicketless in the first innings of the Centurion Test, Bumrah was prolific in the second, once again picking three wickets. So far, he had achieved all the success in the second innings and it was only about time when he found his rhythm going in the first innings of the game.
Coming to Johannesburg, the series was already lost for India and here they were battling for pride. India went for the kill, playing five seamers on a surface, which had grass and help for the seamers. After being bowled out for 187, the onus of making a comeback was on India, but the game was evenly poised with the pitch doing so much. India needed to dismantle South Africa as early as possible and couldn’t have afforded to let them gain a massive lead.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar once again proved his worth as a Test bowler and chipped three key wickets, but India wanted someone else to step up and support him. After AB de Villiers’ dismissal, the game was wide open and India had an outside chance of making a comeback and wrap things up. South Africa bat deep and had enough batting to come.
Faf du Plessis joined Hasim Amla out in the middle, the skipper looked cautious, but India needed wickets at regular intervals. Bumrah had already bowled nine overs without any success and needed wickets under his belt. Du Plessis misjudged one delivery and let it go as the ball nipped back off the pitch and shattered the timber. At this juncture, India not only had hopes but bigger hopes, the skipper was gone and a misfiring Quinton de Kock was at the crease.
De Kock is the kind of a player, who can take the game away in a span of few overs, especially in such a low-scoring game. Bumrah got the better of him with the one that came slightly into the left-hander and kissed the inside part of De Kock’s willow only to be cupped by Parthiv Patel behind the stumps.
Wickets were tumbling at one end, but Hashim Amla was doing his job firmly. With some innovation, Amla was confronting the Indian seamers on a tricky pitch with some elegance. He was unsettling the natural length of the bowlers by shuffling towards the off-stump and did well to survive such brutal bowling. Amla timed a full delivery off Bumrah too well to Hardik Pandya at deep mid-wicket and was dismissed for a tenacious 61. With this kill, the race of getting a lead once again took another turn.
The tail was wide open and Bumrah has always been a nightmare for the tail-enders. Not with his deadly yorkers though, but Bumrah did clean them up. One thing about Bumrah’s unique action is that he can take a batsman for surprise with a full-toss. Andile Phehlukwayo played some good strokes but was outfoxed with a menacing full-toss that struck him on the pads and was judged leg before. Lungi Ngidi gloved one straying down the leg to the wicket-keeper as Bumrah scalped his maiden fifer in Test cricket.
Bumrah spoke about how talking to experienced bowlers have helped him grow. “Not right now, but more in general, elsewhere, or maybe in the IPL, I have spoken to senior bowlers. That I always try to do wherever I play, because senior bowlers always have a lot of experience to share. I try to ask what has worked for them in Test cricket. So learning from them has always been the thing I try to do. All of the senior bowlers have given me this advice to keep things simple and not over-complicate stuff,” Bumrah said in a post-match conference.
Although it would be too early to comment, but Bumrah has the potential to develop into a reliable third seamer in Tests. He is quick, gets the ball to move and deadly with those yorkers. Of course, the workload will come into play as he is also India’s frontline bowler in shorter formats. Another interesting thing is his partnership with Bhuvneshwar. The duo has wreaked havoc in shorter formats and will look to do the same in Tests as well. For now, the match is well balanced between both the sides and Bumrah will have a key role to play on this tricky pitch in the fourth innings.