The ball that became an `instant classic`

Shane Warne to Mike Gatting, Old Trafford, June 1993. The champion leggie’s first delivery in Tests on English soil, to an excellent player of spin. A ripping leg-break that drifted into the right-hander, pitched outside leg, broke sharply, turned right across the face of Gatting’s bat and crashed into the off-stump. 

In that moment itself, that ball—‘the ball of the century’—fired the imagination like no other. Over time, it developed a legacy of its own.

India’s Jasprit Bumrah celebrates the wicket of England’s James Anderson on Saturday. Pic/AFP

Stunning yorker

Jasprit Bumrah to Ollie Pope, Visakhapatnam, February 2024. A laser-driven, pinpoint accurate reverse-swinging screamer of a yorker which started well outside off, surged through the air like a missile, forced the batsman to get his feet out of the way in self-protection and plucked out the middle and leg stumps. A magical ball, delivered by a magical bowler. Stumps spreadeagled, the batsman in a daze, the bowler ecstatic, his mates beside themselves with joy. That delivery has already developed its own legacy.

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Bumrah has delivered—and will continue to deliver—similar yorkers but, and maybe one’s saying this because of recency bias, this Pope dismissal will be remembered for ages. Pope had destroyed India with a seriously awesome 196 in the previous Test, the hosts needed to bounce back from a rare home loss, they were at less than full strength with several key personnel missing. 

Ollie Pope

Yashasvi Jaiswal’s double-ton had propelled them to 396 in the first innings of the second Test, but they needed someone to step up with the ball. Bumrah did so in spectacular fashion, the Pope yorker the piece de resistance of a memorable bowling display that netted him six wickets in the first innings and nine for the match.

In a series where spin was expected to play the dominant role—after all, we are playing in India—Bumrah has by far been the most impactful bowler. True, rookie England left-arm spinner Tom Hartley has 14 wickets, but Bumrah’s 15 have each been an event. His scalps have cost him 10.66 runs each, he has needed only 23.13 balls for every wicket (the corresponding numbers for Hartley are 24.57 and 41.28 respectively). He has yet to taste success with the first new ball, but with an older ball, Bumrah has been lethal. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Bazball or not, Bumrah has done a number on England’s batsmen.

Elite status in team

Bumrah wouldn’t have expected to bowl 57.5 overs this early into the five-Test series, but that number both is a tribute to the status he enjoys as the team’s strike bowler and a semi-indictment of the spinners, who haven’t been the potent force they otherwise are at home. 

Where Bumrah’s economy is a measly 2.76, R Ashwin has conceded 4.08 runs per over, Kuldeep Yadav 4.09, Ravindra Jadeja 4.21 and Axar Patel 4.38. Bumrah is the reason why the series stands 1-1. In the land of spin, how’s that for brilliance?

9-91
Bumrah’s match figures in the second Test v England

10.66
Bumrah’s average in two Tests is best across both teams 

23.13
Bumrah’s strike-rate across two Tests v England. The next best is Tom Hartley’s 41.28 

Reference

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