Jasprit Bumrah-led pace attack leaves India on strong footing

Jasprit Bumrah celebrates after getting Dom Sibley
August 07, 2021

In the fourth over post tea on Saturday, Virat Kohli asked Mohammed Siraj to keep a lid on his emotions while bowling. It drew an instant chuckle considering Kohli is ever laden with emotions at all times on the field. Siraj had not just fired three short-pitched deliveries at Sam Curran's head, including two bouncers, but had charged the England allrounder and exchanged words animatedly - all in reaction to being driven for four at the start of the over.

It was part of a segment of play comprising half an hour on either side of tea that had contributed to tantalising theatre and added further intrigue to this fascinating Test. Kohli understood that Joe Root was threatening to take the match away from India. He also understood his bowlers had to grind under gloriously sunny skies on a slow pitch where England had used the heavy roller - first late on Friday afternoon, then in the morning. So Kohli wanted India not to take their eye off the ball now.

Marshalled by Root's aggressive batting, England had kept their run rate consistently over three. The pressure was on India's bowlers once Root and Dom Sibley had offset the sprightly start the visitors had been given in the morning by Jasprit Bumrah and Siraj with Rory Burns and Zak Crawley returning with a head full of questions over their technique.

But Root transferred that pressure immediately back on the bowlers each time they pitched full or gave him width on the off stump. So positive was Root that the usually immovable Sibley was stirred and fancied freeing his arms a few times despite hitting straight to the fielder. At lunch England's lead was 24. By tea it had swelled to 140. And even though India had got three further wickets by the time Siraj fired balls at and eyeballed Curran, India had not yet succeeded in uprooting the England captain, who was on the brink of a memorable Test century.

Not that they did not try.

"Yeh wala aage dalna, beech me se." (Bowl the same delivery on the middle stump), Kohli instructed Siraj during the latter part of his first spell in the morning session. The previous delivery, Root had defensively pushed at a ball on his back foot and was lucky it did not trickle down onto the stumps. India had done their homework and understood Root has been vulnerable to straighter deliveries attacking the stumps recently. Hence Kohli asked Siraj to fire at the stumps. Next ball, Siraj used the scrambled seam, pitched a bit straight and once again an inside edge nearly knocked onto Root's stumps.

Next over, Bumrah attacked Root's off stump pitching consistently on length and squared up the England captain up with a delivery that straightened and took the outside edge. But Root had been watchful and played the with soft hands as the ball died in front Kohli who could just smile.

Until this Test the highest target India had chased down in England was 173, which came 50 years ago in the Oval Test. The 208 target achieved by West Indies in 1980 remains the highest by a visiting team at Trent Bridge. England were aiming for something well in excess of 200.

The ball was getting older, the pitch was getting slower and there was no swing on offer. Bowling was not easy and Kohli had to remind every fast man barring Bumrah to bowl straighter as Root and his partners were taking advantage of the loose deliveries which had become frequent.

What was not helping the Indian bowlers was that every new batter was starting to impose straightaway: especially Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler. Buttler had been all at sea against Bumrah in the first innings. Now he just lunged forward to attack the same bowler for an easy square-driven four. India went into tea with the new ball still about 10 overs away and Root and Buttler at the crease.

However in the first over after the break, Shardul Thakur, who had been getting reverse swing, took advantage of Buttler's ill-judged leave by disturbing the top of off stump. Next over, Siraj seamed in a delivery from the fourth stump into the front pad of Root, but Michael Gough disagreed. Kohli, too, was unconvinced, but was talked by Siraj and Mohammed Shami into taking the review, India's third and final one, which they lost.

Soon after, Thakur, a few miles slower, rapped Root on his front knee having drawn him into playing a length ball. But once again the impact was outside. Thakur stood mid-pitch heaving on his follow-through staring at Kohli whose hands were folded - and tied, with all reviews spent.

By the time the new ball was taken England's lead had gone to 177 with Root in no mood to surrender and India needed more than luck. The England captain was finally defeated by the cunning and accuracy of Bumrah, who finally extracted some bounce from the new ball by banging it on a length on a straight seam, but with a wrist that pushed the ball slightly away to take a soft edge off Root's bat. While walking back to his mark, he indicated to Shami, suggesting he had been trying the same delivery throughout the day against Root but missing the spot he wanted to hit by a matter of inches.

Next ball, Bumrah yorked Stuart Broad to be on a hat-trick, which he missed. After claiming the first wicket of this Test on Wednesday, Bumrah had celebrated emotionally. Today, though, he flashed happy smiles and waves at the dressing room and his wife, who is at the opposite end.

Importantly, through their patience and perseverance, Bumrah along with the Indian pace pack, have left India on a strong footing once again as this Test enters its final chapter.

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