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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Bumrah breaks through Proteas to hand India advantage

After disappointment in Johannesburg, pace spearhead bounces back with 5-wicket haul in series decider.

Written by Abhishek Purohit |
Updated: January 13, 2022 8:20:03 am
India's Jasprit Bumrah celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of South Africa's Lungi Ngidi (Reuters)

In the dying moments of Day One, Jasprit Bumrah had nipped out Dean Elgar. With the second ball of Day Two, he hit Aiden Markram’s off-stump. In the afternoon heat, he returned to bowl an extended spell to dislodge South Africa’s top-scorer Keegan Petersen; he persisted until he ended the hosts’ innings on 210 to squeeze out a 13-run lead for India. In a nutshell, Bumrah was all over South Africa at Newlands, the venue where his Test career had begun four years ago.

Combined with Mohammed Shami’s twin timely incisions, Bumrah’s ability to maintain his intensity throughout the day – he had figures of 23.3-8-42-5 – enabled India to come back into the game after a palpably under-par first-innings score of 223.

Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara ensured that hard-earned advantage remained with the visitors after they had been reduced to 24/2 in the second innings. India go into Day Three effectively 70 runs ahead with eight wickets remaining.

The vaunted depth of the Indian pace attack was on display in the second Test at Wanderers when fourth seamer Shardul Thakur produced a seven-wicket burst after the luckless lead cast of Bumrah and Shami couldn’t break through and Mohammed Siraj had done his hamstring.

In Cape Town, the lead cast was back to do the heavy lifting, and did it successfully yet again. Thakur was needed for only 12 overs even as Bumrah ended up sending down nearly double as many. The spearhead’s load increased further as Shami did not take the field after tea with what seemed to be a knee niggle.

Umesh Yadav, who’d taken the new ball ahead of Shami on the second evening, plucked out two wickets but also went at four runs an over in what has been a low-scoring game thus far. That is always the risk one takes with him, which is why there was also a case for Ishant Sharma’s better control, but the team management preferred Umesh’s extra pace and zip.

India’s talisman

But as is often the case these days, India seem to rise and fall with Bumrah. He’d returned 0/70 in 17 overs with only two maidens as South Africa successfully chased 240 in Johannesburg. On Wednesday, he bowled eight maidens. When Bumrah is stringing together maidens, one can sense he is in command of the situation and that a wicket is around the corner.

He’d been driven repeatedly through the covers during the Wanderers chase as he strove to make something happen with a wet ball on the fourth evening. At Newlands, he didn’t allow a single cover-driven boundary. Among the only three fours taken off him was an inside edge past the ’keeper.

Much has been spoken, and rightly so, about Kohli being super selective about the cover drive in the first innings. Here was an equally good exponent of the opposing art shutting out the same option for batsmen, an option he had liberally provided to his team’s ultimate detriment in only his previous innings.

South Africa’s Marco Jansen is bowled out by India’s Jasprit Bumrah. (Reuters)

On a pitch which was not doing as much as the previous two in the series, Bumrah kept hitting the good and short-of-good lengths in his hard, heavy manner. But Petersen was able to get behind those lengths and defend solidly.

It was also a surface where if the bowler strayed in line a bit on those lengths, he could easily be punched off the back foot for runs. Which Petersen, again, did regularly. It was then quite an effort from Bumrah to produce an edge eventually, making him play the incoming angle and straightening the delivery.

Kohli intensity

That ball carried comfortably to Pujara at first slip, but a few hadn’t in the morning. A couple of run-out chances were missed. A couple of LBW reviews showed the ball going over the stumps.

Meanwhile, Petersen put on 67 for the fourth wicket with Rassie van der Dussen, and 47 for the fifth with Temba Bavuma. South Africa were getting closer and things weren’t quite going India’s way.

But their captain – absent at Wanderers with a back spasm – didn’t let spirits flag for an instant with his trademark intensity from second slip, in addition to taking a sharp and another spectacular diving catch there.

As a Bumrah in-cutter agonisingly bounced just over Petersen’s stumps – similar to the one that had castled Markram — Kohli exhorted, ‘matter of time, lads.’

Later, Bavuma was put down by Pujara as Rishabh Pant leaped in front of him disturbing his view. Kohli wasn’t holding back though. ‘Another cut coming, another cut coming,’ he went when Bavuma came on strike later.

Indian wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara dive for the ball while KL Rahul (l) and captain Virat Kohli look on during the second day of the third and final test match between South Africa and India in Cape Town, South Africa, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)

After Yadav had bowled a couple of peaches in an over, Kohli ran up to the bowler to encourage him to stick to his spot, pointing out how good those two balls had been.

With no crowd around to create any atmosphere, Kohli got the reserve players in the Indian dugout to start clapping rhythmically in unison to get behind his bowlers.

When umpire Marais Erasmus warned Shami for running onto the danger area, and replays showed Shami hadn’t really transgressed, Kohli angrily raised his arms in protest and ran up to have a word with the official.

Even as Shami sent back Bavuma and Kyle Verreynne in the same over, Kohli saw the opportunity to egg his troops on further. ‘Eight by tea, eight by tea,’ he shouted.

He didn’t get eight, but Bumrah sure enough delivered the seventh at the stroke of tea with the image of the day – it showed him standing and staring with cold aggression towards Marco Jansen, with whom he had had a face-to-face confrontation in Johannesburg, and whose off stump he’d just sent cartwheeling past a futile forward defensive.

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