It took so long to arrive you almost forgot what a significant spell of play it was.
Jasprit Bumrah has been making a comeback from back injury in stages. First the T20Is in Ireland, then the ODIs in the Asia Cup. Even during the Asia Cup, India didn’t get to bowl in the first match against Pakistan, which was abandoned because of rain. Bumrah then flew out for the birth of his first child during their second game, and the third match has involved unhealthy amounts of weather-watching.
By the time Bumrah finally began to bowl in an ODI, all the attention had been taken away by the dazzling Indian batting and the injuries the Pakistan fast bowlers suffered.
Perhaps more important than KL Rahul‘s sparkling comeback from injury was Bumrah’s return to a pace attack that is good but doesn’t have a point of difference. It was apparent how much India struggled in his absence at the T20 World Cup last year. They were desperate to have him back for the 2023 ODI World Cup.
Pretty soon it was apparent why. On a pitch that had seen rain, under lights, Bumrah proceeded to subject the Pakistan top order to an absolute nightmare. The ball seamed off the surface, and Bumrah also extracted twice the amount of swing with the new ball than any other bowler in this contest.
In a five-over spell, Bumrah extracted a false response 17 times. Only one of them created a wicket but it was a masterclass in how to build towards a wicket. Bumrah began over the wicket to the two left-hand openers, and the ball just kept seaming away. He tried one full ball that would swing back in, but didn’t do too many things until he was happy with his rhythm.
Bumrah’s next step towards getting closer to the edge was to move around the wicket, which would make the batters play the angle, but he did so only once he was confident he had found his length. Even then he just managed to go past the edge.
In his third over, Bumrah inched fuller ever so slightly, and finally drew the edge to second slip. Even in doing that he made sure his full length was not full enough to drive. Therein lies the difference between Bumrah and the others.
Lesser bowlers don’t quite strive for that kind of perfection. They tend to bowl the odd half-volley looking for the wicket. Bumrah is impeccable with his length. He wants to draw the edge but he wants to get only so full that he gets the edge and not the drive. That driving length never arrived.
Thanks to Kuldeep Yadav‘s five-wicket haul, Bumrah was not required to bowl again, which will give him time to recover for a second successive day on the field as India face Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
Captain Rohit Sharma was overjoyed at the return of the leader of his bowling attack. “Bumrah looked good,” Rohit said at the post-match presentation. “We all saw that. Swung the ball both ways. Really worked hard for the past 8-15 months. I know how hard it is for someone who goes through that kind of injury. Bumrah is only 27 . For him to come back… the way he bowled, he’s shown what Bumrah is all about. Good to see him in that rhythm.”
Not long ago India were not sure of the composition of their World Cup squad with so many injuries in their ranks, but now things are falling in place. Now, Bumrah, Rahul and Shreyas Iyer are back, and Ishan Kishan has also presented himself as a viable middle-order option as the only left-hand batter in the top six.
Any questions on how well Bumrah backs this showing up will be answered when India face Sri Lanka in their third straight day on the field.