There was some reverse in a peach of a delivery that got Joe Root but that didn’t really sum up England’s misery. Jonny Bairstow probably walked into the trap of edging a wide, length ball after staying inside the line of inswingers for too long. Ben Stokes might have a grouse with the inconsistent bounce but it’s one of those subcontinent things you need to accept and move on. But the ball that really took Ollie Pope, England and for that matter probably the entire cricket metaverse by surprise was a booming, curving in, quicker-through-the air yorker that uprooted his stumps and snapped the visitors’ stranglehold on this Test match.
That delivery told us that in the world of Jasprit Bumrah, anything is possible.
Everything was going according to plan for England till Bumrah happened to them as they folded for 253 before Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rohit Sharma took India to 28/0, consolidating the lead to 171 at stumps on Day 2. This after England were cruising with the bat, as it should have been on an easy pitch, having dismissed India for 396.
In the morning, James Anderson picked up from where he had left earlier, keeping a stranglehold on the runs and asking questions of Ravichandran Ashwin and Jaiswal.
He barely got any backup though as Jaiswal stuck to his plan of defending Anderson and attacking the spinners. Slog sweeping Shoaib Bashir for six, Jaiswal swept the next ball — a full toss — for a boundary to become the third youngest Indian to score a double hundred, after Vinod Kambli and Sunil Gavaskar. But Ashwin got a sensational delivery from Anderson that squared him up with a wobbled seam. That prompted Jaiswal to go on the charge, but he sliced Anderson to Bairstow at deep cover before Rehan Ahmed and Bashir quickly wiped off the rest of the batting.
In reply, Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett hammered 32 in the first six overs before shifting gears in the post-lunch session. Kuldeep Yadav — brought in place of the injured Ravindra Jadeja — got Duckett quickly when he was caught at silly point pushing at a delivery that turned and bounced. Crawley, by then, was using his long reach to launch a ferocious counterattack. Four boundaries against Bumrah in the ninth over flagged off an offensive that witnessed Ashwin and Kuldeep being hit for sixes before Shreyas Iyer backpedalled almost 20 yards at backward point to superbly hold on to Crawley’s toe-ended slog off Axar Patel. In that time Crawley had taken 61 off just 50 balls to race to a 78-ball 76.
The pitch was still benign and England were still in the ascendancy. But by then Mukesh had let Bumrah know the ball, though hard, had started to reverse. Seeing Root trudge in, Bumrah straightaway took the ball and started working on it. “In first-class cricket if you want to take wickets you need to learn reverse swing,” Bumrah said at the post-match briefing. “Probably I learnt it before conventional swing. Because you play on a lot of slow wickets you understand what to do over here; you have to find a way what are the areas to hit.”
Finding the right lengths wasn’t going to be a problem for Bumrah. Neither was playing around with the lines. “You don’t want to hide behind (anyone) and not do the job,” he said. “You love to take responsibility. When you plan abroad the wickets do favour the seamers relatively more. Over here I have played less Test matches but a lot of first-class cricket, so I go back to that and think what should I do when the wicket is flat.”
Bumrah did it and how. To Root, he bowled full and straight, length and inswing, good length and wide, length and straighter — basically lining him up for the inswinger before teasing him with one that left the bat. Edged and gone, the eighth time Root was dismissed by Bumrah in 20 innings.
To Pope, Bumrah was more wily — going good length, fuller length, slower at 119 kph and a short ball aimed at the body before arrowing in the yorker at 142 kph, his fastest in this innings. “At that time the ball was relatively hard,” said Bumrah. “I hadn’t bowled a yorker till then so I just went with it. It did swing a lot and the execution was good so I was happy with it.”
Jonny Bairstow departing shortly after helped Bumrah accomplish two fantastic spells— 4-2-3-2 and 2-2-0-1 – that broke England’s spirit.
But he still hadn’t got Stokes. With Yadav removing Ben Foakes and Rehan Ahmed in the space of four overs, the England captain was left with no choice but to go after the bowling. Standing at slip, Sharma got his fingertips to a very difficult edge off Yadav’s bowling but Stokes tried to shift the momentum by getting down on one knee and making room for a massive slog-sweep of a six off Ashwin. He again took the attack to Ashwin in his next over, using his feet to get to the pitch of the ball and drilling it past the bowler for a four.
In keeping with the narrative, Bumrah showed up again. Around the wicket, his first ball was full outside off with a hint of away movement that Stokes cautiously defended. Next ball was magical though, pitching on length and cutting in while staying a bit low to beat Stokes, who threw his arms to gesture nothing about that delivery was playable, something his teammates too must have felt.