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Opinion

A magical Indian bowling unit conjures up a heist in London

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Roar Guru
17th August, 2021
50
1130 Reads

Long after he retires, Virat Kohli might sit with his mates and laugh about how James Anderson asked his bowlers to bowl slower to him; ‘170 Tests, and he asked us to bowl slower to him’.

The legacy of Virat and Ravi Shastri’s Indian unit will be this fast-bowling mongrel that they have let loose into the cricketing world.

It all started with that bouncer from Varun Aaron that destroyed Stuart Broad’s lower-order batting ability.

It continues in the fear that I could see in James Anderson’s eyes on the third evening of this Test match.

This fearful period for Anderson played a pivotal role in England losing the plot on the fifth day in the Lord’s Test.

There are passages of play that define a Test match and a series, like the Ricky Ponting versus Ishant Sharma duel in the Perth 2008 Test or the Michael Atherton versus Allan Donald duel in the Trent Bridge Test in 1998.

This Anderson versus Bumrah passage came out of the blue at the end of Day 3. Unlike the other quoted passages, this duel was not a great batsman versus a great bowler. It was a weak batsman versus a great bowler.

It was nevertheless a talisman versus talisman encounter. In terms of the impact, that Bumrah over could well go on to define this series.

Jasprit Bumrah celebrates with his Indian team

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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When the English were bowling on the fifth morning, soon after getting rid of Rishabh Pant, they started to look like they were playing for their mate’s honour rather than like a professional team out to win a Test match.

Mark Wood and other quicks peppered Bumrah with a few short balls, but the intensity that we saw in that Bumrah over was missing. It felt like sporadic sniper fire rather than intense artillery about to besiege a town.

Rather than getting rattled, Bumrah and Mohammed Shami continued to get behind the line of the ball and picked off easy runs. At this point, the pitch looked slow, and the match looked like will end in a draw.

When England walked into bat with 60 overs to play and a challenging target of over four runs an over to win, the Indian unit smelt a kill for some good reason. The chatter was ‘get Joe Root out and win the game’.

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From the 2018 South Africa series, this Indian bowling attack has been relentless. Lord’s 2021 turned out to be yet another exhibition of how this mongrel unit would tear apart any opposition batting unit given a bit of support by their batting unit.

With only 60 overs to bowl, the Indian pace quartet ran in and bowled fast. The pitch, which appeared to be slow, suddenly started to hurry the English batsmen.

If the ball did not rush the batsmen, the hostile environment that Virat Kohli and his team created for them sure did.

The Indian supporters in the stadium got right behind their team and magnified the challenge that the English batsmen faced at Lord’s.

Joe Root, the lone English warrior, was forced to come in very early with the ball barely two overs old. From ball one, Root looked like he was playing a different match from his compatriots. He timed the ball beautifully, playing his drives and keeping the short ball down with ease.

Joe Root celebrates a Test ton against India at Trent Bridge

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

However, the reality was very different for Haseeb Hameed and the rest.

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The variety of the attack on display is what that broke the English batting. Ishant got the ball to tail into the right-handers, trapping them LBW. Jasprit managed to straighten the ball from wide of the crease, getting the outside edges of Root and others.

Mohammed Shami presented the seam beautifully, nipping the ball both ways. Mohammed Siraj – India’s scrambled and wobbly seam expert – extracted pace, seam movement and bounce from the pitch.

The ball of the second innings was the slow off-cutter that Jasprit bowled to Ollie Robinson. What added magic to that delivery was the context in which Bumrah conjured up this ball.

Jos Buttler and Robinson were putting up a brave resistance until that point, and time was running out for the Indian bowlers.

When Jasprit went around the sticks and moved a few fielders back on the leg side, it looked like Robinson was in for a short-ball barrage. After a couple of short balls, Bumrah bowled this beautiful, slow off-cutter that landed within the stumps and caught Robinson off guard.

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Robinson played the ball awkwardly and missed it to be LBW. That delivery reminded many of us of the Jasprit Bumrah slow ball to Shaun Marsh in Melbourne in 2018.

Soon after, Siraj induced an edge off Buttler’s resolute defensive bat, using a scrambled seam ball that held its line rather than coming in with the trajectory of release.

When James Anderson was clean bowled by Siraj, the Indian team completed the heist on a day that started with England hoping to win the match easily.

They came in with a set of expectations and ended up facing a different reality, one that the Indian magicians conjured up with the ball.

If you watched Anderson play the last delivery, you could see that he was expecting a short ball from Siraj.

But the wily Indian delivered a fast, full delivery to peg his off stump back. It was that kind of a day for England.

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