Perth: Head bowed, eyes looking at the ground, feet shuffling in small, unhurried strides, the start of Jasprit Bumrah’s action is like a man in a slight hurry looking for a coin that he may have dropped in a dimly lit park. By the time he reaches the crease, he loads up and lets the ball fly, an explosion of muscular activity has taken place. To have such an unusual action and be able to land the ball on a postage stamp with regularity is a gift bestowed on few, and with hard work, Bumrah has taken this to the next level.It is difficult to believe that he is playing in only his eighth Test match, such was the quality of the bowling on display on the opening day of the second Test against Australia in Perth. While Mohammad Shami began sharply but flattened out — exactly the inverse of how the pitch played — Ishant Sharma took a bit of time to get the right line and length and then was luckless and Umesh Yadav blew hot and cold, Bumrah was witheringly dangerous.
It mattered little whether the batsman was right or left handed, tall or short, Bumrah had just the perfect lengths. He could pull it back and slant the ball into the body, which meant the batsmen were more or less pinned to the back foot and when he lured them forward with fuller deliveries, there was enough swing and movement off the seam — in fact too much at times — to beat the bat.
On a day when it was pushing 40 degrees, in a stadium that is a cauldron that does not let as much breeze in as other cricket grounds, Bumrah sent down rockets at 145+ kmh as late as his 16th over, and even when he returned among the lengthening shadows with the second new ball, there was no drop in either pace or intensity.
From 22 overs, of which eight were so good that not a run was scored off them, Bumrah picked up 1 for 41, but that was hardly a reflection of how well he had bowled. It is only a matter of time before his luck changes, and instead of beating the bat repeatedly, he draws edges with greater regularity. He literally did everything right, bowling the kind of sustained spells that results in a bowler knifing through the opposition batting, picking up wickets in a heap and poleaxing the opposition.
The one wicket that came, was a critical one. On a pitch that played much better than anyone had anticipated, Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch put on 112 for the first wicket. At times in that partnership it appeared that Australia had turned a batting corner and that 300 would be on the board without too much damage.
But as the sun beat down in the first session, the pitch quickened up, and even a set batsman, Finch, who had a half-century under the belt, could not escape the set up. Having been roughed up by several short balls that beat the bat, Finch played half-cocked to the full, straight delivery that attacked the stumps, and was nailed in front.
“The length that has bowled so far has been outstanding. He comes from wide on the crease and can move the ball both ways. This is a huge advantage for him,” said Finch of Bumrah. “Some of the balls that he bowled today, you have to be in brilliant nick to edge them. Coming around the wicket to left-hand batsmen and straightening the ball so much is a huge asset to have. Even to right-hand batsmen … the ball towards the end to Tim [Paine] just took off and missed off stump. He’s a good bowler. He knows his game very well and he doesn’t give you anything easy. You have to feel as though you’re playing really well just to keep him out, but added to that the scoring options just aren’t there, as much as you would like.”
At 277 for six, Australia are ahead of the game, especially because their tall, hit-the-deck fast bowlers are well suited to decks of this kind and they have a specialist spinner whose methodology is to just land the ball as hard as possible, with plenty of overspin on it. What is more, they will now know exactly what works on this particular surface and what doesn’t: Bumrah’s bowling on the day was nothing if not a template for what do in order to keep batsmen honest. The rewards eluded on the day, but you can be sure that the shuffling man’s search will not be in vain indefinitely.
First Published: December 14, 2018, 5:13 PM IST