When Jasprit Bumrah was selected for this tour, eyebrows were raised as he hadn’t played any first-class cricket in a year. Naturally, questions arose: how menacing will he be in his 18th over of the day? He is encouraged to bowl as many variations as possible in the format he plays, will he be able to bowl consistently in this new format? Will he have the patience to set batsmen up? Thrown into the deep end, Bumrah has shown he has learnt a lot of it after an ordinary start on day one of his Test career. Now he has a five-for to show for it.
Behind the scenes, Bumrah said he has been doing what he could without playing first-class in preparation for Test cricket. He said he has been talking to successful Test bowlers in the IPL to make sure he is carrying knowledge into Test cricket.
“Not right now, but more in general, elsewhere, or maybe in the IPL, I have spoken to senior bowlers,” Bumrah said. “That I always try to do wherever I play, because senior bowlers always have a lot of experience to share. I try to ask what has worked for them in Test cricket. So learning from them has always been the thing I try to do. All of the senior bowlers have given me this advice to keep things simple and not over-complicate stuff.”
Bumrah said it was important to keep things simple on this pitch and not go looking to make too much happen. “We haven’t played on many such wickets where there is so much help for the bowlers,” he said. “On such wickets there is always a temptation that you try harder to get more wickets. So at such times you have to stay in control of your mind and bowl disciplined lines. You have to tell yourself that if you bowl good lines the wickets will come.”
India began the day with a frustrating first session in which nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada mixed plays and misses with some exquisite shots. Bumrah, though, said he knew it was a matter of getting one wicket, which would bring more.
“It is not frustrating, because he was playing well so you sometimes have to acknowledge that the batsman is playing well,” Bumrah said. “So you don’t try too much and just don’t go away from your plans. This is what we were discussing. On these type of wickets, wickets can fall in bunches. We were focussing on that.”
India were held up by Hashim Amla’s genius. As great batsmen do, he adjusted to these conditions on the fly, shuffling well outside his off stump to get a better idea of what balls to leave and also to access the leg side more. Bumrah’s counter to it was to bowl full and straight, and try to go behind his legs.
“He was trying to shuffle a lot,” Bumrah said. “The ball was doing so much that he was trying to do something else. So that was working for him. We thought that we will probably use one fuller ball straight up. So that could also give the message that we are trying to hit the stumps. All these battles are very interesting on such wickets so it’s always challenging and you keep on learning when such challenges come. You are very happy whenever you get his wicket so I’m very happy. He was beaten a lot of times so we were happy that he got out [hitting a full leg-side ball straight to square leg].”
This was arguably India’s best day on the tour, and they ended it with a good chance of making it count. They were effectively 42 for 1 at stumps, and anything over 150 on this pitch can be difficult to get. “We have a good start right now,” Bumrah said. “Really happy with that. Hopefully tomorrow morning we will be able to play with some intent and capitalise on it. That’s our main target right now. Match is in balance right now. It could be anybody’s game.”