In a Test match that had several incredible moments, the partnership between Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami came out of syllabus for England and turned the game on its head, writes Rohit Sankar.
Several stars had to align in the right direction for India’s fifth day to be the perfect one. The first of those was, of course, Rishabh Pant gloriously taking on James Anderson & Co. and helping India set a target of about 250. Four overs into day five, that dream ended. And so would India’s, according to the usual script.
WinViz had edged ever closer to 50 per cent for an England win. It went further up as India lost Ishant Sharma while adding 15 more runs. Two tailenders, averaging 3.55 and 11.23, were no match for England’s quick bowlers, riding on the high of the early wickets. On paper, that is. What the averages won’t tell you is the emotional, revenge-thirsty game that Test cricket is. The most advanced of numbers do not factor in the heated spell from Jasprit Bumrah to James Anderson the other night and how it riled up the entire England team; how it arguably prompted them to lose their heads and aim for the heads.
With the new ball new enough for the good length to scream for some throwdowns, Mark Wood charged in, deep mid-wicket, a short leg and a fine leg in place, and aimed for Bumrah’s head. Things turned verbal soon as Bumrah was engaged in a heated battle of words with Jos Buttler. And bang! One hit Bumrah on the helmet.
“If you come after one of our guys, all 11 are going to come back at you,” KL Rahul later tells in the post-match presentation ceremony. He didn’t have to. You could see it. The cameras panned to Virat Kohli in the Lord’s balcony, aggressively expressing his displeasure at England taking on one of his men. The Lord’s balcony has seen a myriad of reactions from Indian captains in the past.
Surely Bumrah or Shami would lose their cool and throw the kitchen sink at an Ollie Robinson slower one or a Mark Wood snorter? They don’t. Bumrah unfurls two straight drives, high elbows and all that. So straight that they crash into the non-striker’s end. Twice. Shami creams Sam Curran for a drive through extra cover for a run and then later, against the off-spinner, pierces the gap through cover with another incredible drive to fetch a boundary.
Both batsmen fell for ducks in the first innings. Here, on a day five wicket that had slightly inconsistent bounce, the two were into the twenties, scoffing at their career averages and building a partnership with compact front-foot defence, drool-worthy drives and outstanding character.
They edged, flicked in the air and were saved by a dropped chance. But, every single time, the comeback was calculated, the approach measured. Every mistake made was corrected. The stats back that. Lesser false shots were played as their innings progressed.
In their first 30 balls, Shami and Bumrah played 30% and 33% false shots respectively. Since then, that’s only dropped to 21% and 24%. England’s failure to convert errors into wickets – due to very questionable tactics, but also luck – has seen their WinViz sink to 4%. #ENGvIND
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) August 16, 2021
There were the odd instances of instincts taking over: Shami stepped out to smash Moeen Ali over the leg-side for four and six, the second of those a 92-metre hit that brought up his half-century, the first by an Indian No.9 in two years.
Other records tumbled, but notably WinViz, as the teams broke for lunch, had England’s chances of winning at 1 per cent, an incredible drop, conceived and played out to perfection by two mavericks, known to do mad things with their other skill. They would go on to do that too of course.
Adrenaline still pumping from an unbeaten 89-run stand at the time of a shrewd declaration two overs after lunch – just enough to further irk the English players – Kohli threw the new ball at them, asking to unfurl the magic again. And they did. They had to. They had the new script for Lord’s on day five.
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