“Given the conditions at Melbourne, it would be no surprise if Bumrah goes on to grab another five-for in the second essay and ends the year with more than 50 Test wickets”
When Jasprit Bumrah was first picked in the Indian Test side for the series against South Africa early 2018, purists scoffed at the prospect of a limited-overs bowler taking the red ball. He was ridiculed and written off even before a ball had been bowled.
That he was picked for the first Test ahead of Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma failed to sit well with several but Bumrah was a trusted ally in limited-overs cricket and those who had watched him in Ranji Trophy knew that he wasn’t a one-dimensional bowler with limited-overs variations.
As his last spell of the year comes to a close, Bumrah sits pretty at no.4 in the wicket-takers chart in red ball cricket in 2018, one of only two fast bowlers alongside Kagiso Rabada. He has bowled more than 360 overs, taken 45 wickets and averaged a miserly 21.24 while striking at 48.0.
He has three five-wicket hauls to his name, one apiece in South Africa, England and Australia and possibly bowled his side to a series win at Melbourne in his second-last spell of the year.
He began the year as a doubtful starter for India in Tests but at the end of it, he is Virat Kohli’s go-to bowler and India’s top wicket-taker. There is a method to Bumrah’s magic and it was on full display on day 3 at Melbourne. With a huge deficit staring at the Aussies, they needed a solid platform from their top-order on day 3 but had the relentless Bumrah to contend with on a surface with irregular bounce.
Bumrah’s weapon across all formats is his accuracy. When you hit the stumps as many times as Bumrah does, wickets are bound to come by but you’d also expect him to leak runs. This is where Bumrah has been surprisingly effective. He can tie the batsmen down with his angle and ability to straighten the ball past the edge and is forever a threat to the batsman’s defensive skills with his skiddy pace.
On a surface with irregular bounce, it is all the more prominent. By the end of the Indian innings, it was nearly certain that Australia’s biggest threat would be Bumrah. Much akin to Johannesburg, where he picked up his maiden five-for on an up and down track, Bumrah threat loomed large even before day 3 began.
In this series, Jasprit Bumrah has drawn an edge or a miss once every four deliveries. #AUSvIND
— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) December 28, 2018
Watching India’s batsmen bat, Bumrah knew exactly where to target when bowling. In this series, according to CricViz, Bumrah draws a false shot every fourth delivery. That is insane for tracks that the Aussies have dished out this series.
The Aussie batsmen obliged with poor strokes but Bumrah was immaculate, even unplayable at times. Marcus Harris, who had coped a blow to the helmet from Bumrah, was struggling to read the Indian seamer but ahead of day 3 spoke about taking on Bumrah’s bouncers.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 28, 2018
We do not know if Bumrah did see what Harris had to say, but the Indian knew where to target the Aussie opener. Harris was promptly given a bumper early on and the Aussie retorted by going after it, only to sky a catch to the deep fielder. Bumrah had drawn first blood but few could believe what unfolded in the next few hours.
Shaun Marsh was perhaps victim to some of the best bowling in recent times in Test cricket. Bumrah bowled the first five balls of an over at good pace to the elder Marsh brother. All in and around the 140kmph mark. In the final ball, the Mumbai seamer pushed the ball yorker length but slowed the pace to 111kmph, a limited-overs yorker that Marsh hardly saw coming. He played all around the ball and was trapped in front.
Two overs later, Travis Head was at the receiving end of another Bumrah peach. Bumrah was once again at the stumps, bowling full and finding shape back into the left-hander from around the wicket. Head went for a whip, but the ball had enough pace to gun through and strike the edge en route its way to shattering the stumps.
The seamer then returned with three Aussie wickets remaining and sent back the resolute Aussie skipper. He was soon yorking Nathan Lyon and cleaning up Josh Hazlewood in the same over to give India a massive first innings lead. His figures read 15.5-4-33-6. Not for once did Bumrah seem like not taking a wicket. He was constantly at the Aussie batsmen armed with a clear plan and exceptional execution.
Given the conditions at Melbourne, it would be no surprise if Bumrah goes on to grab another five-for in the second essay and ends the year with more than 50 Test wickets. Such is his efficiency and effectiveness that even when you know what’s coming at you, there is no stopping it. India have a spectacular find in Bumrah this year and he could well bowl them to a maiden series win Down Under given his rhythm and form.