Jasprit Bumrah lights up Lord's on emotionally charged final day

Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah leave the field after putting India in front
August 16, 2021

Jos Buttler flashed hard at a delivery that pitched just short of a length but well outside off stump. The thick edge flew to Virat Kohli at first slip. Kohli's eyes bulged as he lined up to pouch the catch. But the ball burst through his reverse-cupped hands. A discordant chorus of loud cheers and sighs rang out around Lord's, lit by floodlights in the late afternoon.

Jasprit Bumrah, the man who created the chance, had begun to rush excitedly towards Kohli, only to stop mid-stride, raise his right leg high, and kick the turf in disgust. At the end of the over Kohli aplogised to Bumrah, indicating that he hadn't quite sighted the ball as it flew quickly towards him. Bumrah accepted the apology, but a bit of disappointment may have continued to simmer underneath.

He was in the middle of an incisive second spell. Buttler was batting on 2. India were five wickets away from clinching a Test of several twists and turns. Bumrah had influenced a number of those twists. One of them had come barely a minute into the final session of the match, when he induced an error from the best batter in the series so far, Joe Root.

Root had been England's unshakeable rock in this series, scoring unbeaten 180 in the first innings here to go with 64 and 109 in the first Test at Trent Bridge. Despite the rest of England's line-up being riddled with uncertainty, Root had remained on the lookout for runs at all times. On this afternoon, he had walked in after both openers had fallen for ducks - a first for England at Lord's.

At Trent Bridge, Bumrah had utilised the second new ball to find Root's edge late on the fourth afternoon to put India in a favourable position before rain wiped out the entire fifth day. In the first innings here Root had lorded over the Indian bowling, and walked back undefeated.

A five-Test series allows both batter and bowler to keep finding ways to stay one step ahead of the other. Out of that can emerge duels so engrossing they become theatre.

Root had once again settled down and rushed into the 30s, but India's pace quartet had kept the pressure constant, chipping away at the other end. Bumrah had sent alarm bells ringing in the England dressing room in the very first over their innings when he scrambled Rory Burns into closing his bat face early and spooning a leading edge to mid-off. Burns' expression, and his slow head-shake before unwillingly leaving the crease, told you all you needed to know about the pressure Bumrah had put him under.

Bumrah had attacked Root's off stump constantly, making the England captain play at almost everything with utmost vigilance. The ball that eventually got Root was masterful: from his usual spot wide of the crease, Bumrah angled the ball into the corridor outside off stump, with the seam canted towards the slips. The ball pitched on a length, the initial angle drew Root into a defensive shot, and then it straightened to take a quick edge that Kohli lapped up, low and in front of him.

Pop-eyed, finger on lips, Kohli took off, and the Indians in the crowd screamed in delight. Root dug his bat and head down in disappointment. In front of him was Bumrah, who stamped the Lord's turf with relief as well as the authoritative air of a man who had just sprung the perfectly laid trap.

None of this was surprising, of course. In the morning, however, Bumrah had punched England in the gut in the most unexpected manner, with bat in hand, as he and Mohammed Shami had turned the match with a surreal, unbroken stand of 89 for the ninth wicket.

Monday had begun with all four results possible, and England quickly took the initiative with the wicket of Rishabh Pant - India's last recognised batter - in the fourth over of the morning. In less than two hours, however, Shami and Bumrah had shredded that script apart.

Now Bumrah had taken out England's best batter, but the match was still to be won. When he returned to the attack with 16 overs remaining, England were seven down, but the pair at the crease - Jos Buttler and Ollie Robinson - had been there for 5.4 overs, with the former having already faced 68 balls.

Minutes before, Buttler had had a quiet word with Kohli, who had been chirping away incessantly throughout the innings. Irritating as that might have been, surviving Bumrah was a task of an altogether more serious magnitude.

Straightaway Bumrah attacked Buttler, forcing him to defend his off stump, then to duck a bouncer, and then squared him up and drew an outside edge that landed in front of KL Rahul at second slip. The over ended with another edge, this one racing between second slip and gully. Drinks came onto the field. The match was into its final hour.

Buttler and Robinson were not going to be separated easily. Five more overs went by, the tension growing by the minute. Then Bumrah went around the wicket to Robinson. He began this new line of attack with a pair of bouncers, overstepping on the second occasion. Would there be a change-up next? And what would it be?

The next ball, the penultimate ball of the over, would also turn out to be the penultimate ball of Bumrah's match. And possibly, quite simply, the ball of the match. From around the wicket, Bumrah whirred that fast arm once again, with a last-minute flick of fingers and wrist at the last instant to take pace off the ball. A slower offcutter, coming down at Robinson with a scrambled seam.

Robinson, stuck on the crease, played for the angle, opening his bat face to steer it square on the off side. It beat him twice: for lack of pace, and then with wicked inward movement past the inside edge to hit his back pad. A delivery to move anyone, but not, on this occasion, umpire Richard Illingworth.

Kohli checked with Bumrah if the ball had pitched in line, and asked for a review. The ball had pitched in line with leg stump, and was straightening enough to hit middle, according to ball-tracking. Bumrah clapped enthusiastically, a smile lighting up his face. "Absolutely brilliant bowling" was the on-air verdict of Michael Holding, never a man for easy praise.

The end was nigh, and it only took Mohammed Siraj five balls to take out the last two wickets, knocking back James Anderson's off stump to send the Indians into a frenzy. At square leg, Bumrah jumped high and punched the air wildly.

It has been an emotional series for Bumrah. After the Trent Bridge Test he tweeted the words: "Still don't need you." Was he shushing everyone who had criticised him after he'd gone wicketless in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand? Who knows.

In the first innings of this Test, Bumrah went wicketless again. He ended that innings with an incident-packed 10-ball over that included four no-balls and a barrage of short-pitched deliveries at Anderson, including one that hit him on the helmet. England's highest wicket-taker did not take kindly to it, and he argued animatedly with Bumrah as they walked off the ground at the end of the innings.

That incident prompted England to attack Bumrah with short balls on the fifth morning, including one that smacked into the earpiece of his helmet. It fired him up, and he engaged in several verbal jousts with the opposition. The nervous energy of those early minutes of his innings dissipated as the Bumrah-Shami partnership grew, gradually loosening England's hold on the Test match.

And by the time he was done with the ball, India were well on their way to victory. Bumrah's display wasn't single-handed, but even if it was part of a magnificent team performance, it was a key catalyst behind India taking the series lead.

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