IND vs ENG 5th Test: Bumrah sizzles but Root and Bairstow roast the rest

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Just four overs before the close of play, Mohammed Siraj staggered in from around the stumps against Jonny Bairstow in an ambitious bid to bounce him out. It was the last-ditch effort of a lost and tired team to take some hope back to the dressing room. But Bairstow, in emphatic touch, blasted a weary bouncer from the wearier bowler into the stands. The ball and the shot captured the mood of the match. India, defending 377, looked defeated and deflated. England, who have never chased a score as steep as this to win a Test, looked triumphant and just 119 runs from the dreamland.

The last hour was perhaps the most damning for India. For, England were not trading in the currency of Baz-ball or blinding aggression, but risk-averse text-book cricket, anchored by Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, together riding England to an unconquered shores, showing that there are deeper layers to England batting than Bazball. The pair brought calm, stability and belief. The team was imploding when they joined each other. England had lost three wickets for two runs, two falling to an inspired Jasprit Bumrah and the other a semi-comical run out. And then, they batted on 33 overs, stroking (than shellacking) 115 runs without embracing anything remotely outrageous as the opening pair of Alex Lees and Zak Crawley had against the new ball.

Root batted like the perfect note from a symphony. Every tenor and intonation in place. He purred along, through neat deflections, silken glides and brushstroke-like punches. Bairstow is more brutal by Root-o-metre. But he has a macho grace of his own, a smouldering presence for all his introverted nature. And in this rich vein of form, a feeling that he is unconquerable. Both churned out singles to complement the boundary balls being ruthlessly punished. They hardly broke a sweat; Bazball came organically to them, completing their risk-free hundred-run association in 141 balls. Apart from a catch that Hanuma Vihari spilled off Bairstow (on 14) and a couple of close lbw shouts in Shami’s post tea spell, there were hardly any close calls either.

The story of India, though, was the story of one man. It was Bumrah and just Bumrah alone that India leant on. So two overs before tea, after a frantic session where England’s new mantra Bazball shone brighter than the sun and just after the out-of-shape ball was replaced, Jasprit Bumrah summoned Jasprit Bumrah into the attack. As whoever has captained him would have. He is their—and this case his own—first and last resort. The man for jailbreak, the totem in crisis, the hope and benediction, the Plan A and Plan Z.

At the point, Crawley and Lees had screamed off to 106 runs in 21 overs, living the Bazball to the fullest. Just the second ball he faced off Shami with the new ball, Lees strolled down the track and hacked him through mid-wicket. Shami beat him with a nearly-bail-trimmer and held his hands in anguish, before he drew a false shot off the last. But Less was unfazed. The next over he flicked Bumrah for four, ran a pair of doubles and then wildly swished at the last ball, a full, brutal away-swinger, which made Lees look out of place as a Test opener.

What would have rankled India the most was they were not harming them with unorthodox, high-risk strokes—the phase of adventure seemed over—but with an array of orthodox strokes. Crawley drove deliciously, he flicked nonchalantly, on an occasion he trotted across and whipped Mohammed Siraj through midwicket. Lees, the more daring of the pair, had reverse swept Ravindra Jadeja off the rough. Try as India and Bumrah every plan they had planned—by then all five specialist bowlers had been SOS-ed to no avail—a hope-affirming breakthrough evaded. The hope was waning, and for the first time in the Test, they looked scarred and barraged, the faces so devastated that they seemed to entrust their fate into the hands of destiny. Even Virat Kohli—animated and antagonistic like in his captaincy days—seemed to lose his spunk and voice.

The cameras persisted on Bumrah’s face. He oozed serenity, then handed over the jumper and brought himself on. The burden of expectations would have been creaking his shoulders, like it once burdened Sachin Tendulkar. A reel of Bumrah-balls would be whizzing in the mind, and as often as he does, blew a kiss of life for his team. On a surface that was not obliging seam or swing, low bounce or awkward lift, he pounded in and extracted movement. With the fourth ball of his second spell, he winkled out Crawley with a full ball that seamed in to hit his stumps after he had shouldered arms.

Buoyed, they returned re-energised to kick in panic amidst the English camp. He dangled a good-length ball on fifth stump that Ollie Pope tried to waft but only managed an edge to the wicket-keeper. Six balls later, Joe Root ran out Lees, as England lost three wickets for just two more runs. Bumrah ripped in three testing overs, rewardless but belligerent, but once he got tired and pulled himself out of the attack, England reasserted their foothold in the match, and then found space to park their motorbikes too.

The unresponsive pitch might look like the villain in the piece, but more so does the accomplices of Bumrah, who could not sustain the impetus their lead-bowler and lead man in the game had provided them. The pitch barely deteriorated as it was expected to be. Apart from a rough outside the right-hander’s leg-stump, there was nothing Jadeja could work on. The ball was reverse-swinging, especially when Bumrah was bowling. But neither Siraj nor Thakur could harness it. Thakur, who generally taps reverse movement, was utterly off-colour, whereas Siraj was scattergun, often bowling too wide outside the off-stump, or too full on middle stump, or short on the leg-side. The tough art of tying an end up, piling the pressure, was lost on them. And the match drifted away from them with every ball that did not buy a wicket.





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