Jasprit Bumrah loves to reel in the big fish. Ever since he made his debut across all formats of the game, he has made a habit of dislodging the opposition's best batsman. On his Indian Premier League (IPL) debut it was Virat Kohli, on his One-Day International (ODI) debut it was David Warner, and earlier this year, his maiden Test wicket was that of AB De Villiers. It might be co-incidental, but Bumrah has the canny knack of getting into a tussle with the elite players and coming out on top.
On Tuesday morning at Trent Bridge, Bumrah was pitted against Joe Root. The conditions were in his favour — the ball was still new, the dark clouds had settled over the picturesque Trent Bridge ground and there was assistance off the deck.
For 23 balls, Bumrah went full tilt at the English skipper. It was an absorbing contest and one that showcased the significant rise of Bumrah, the Test bowler. For a while now, he has been associated with the white ball, but this was an examination against the best in the opponent's backyard.
From the outset, the plan was to bowl fuller. After a couple of length balls, Virat Kohli could be heard saying "Jassi, abhi sir pe daal" (Jassi, bowl a bouncer). Bumrah obliged and Root swayed out of the line. The delivery was clocked at nearly 90mph, indicating Bumrah had just found his rhythm. The next ball, he went wider on the crease and Root managed to get an inside edge onto the pad. "The head is falling over Jassi, you got him boy," cried Kohli in the slips. The Indian captain could sense his young tearaway had the England skipper in trouble.
For the next dozen balls, Bumrah played havoc with Root's mind. He went wider of the crease, pitched the ball on a good length and moved it away. Root played and missed at least three or four times. Bumrah also confused Root by bowling with a vertical seam or a scrambled seam. This battle within battle continued for nearly five overs without any reward. Kohli, however, persisted and let Bumrah bowl eight overs on the trot. The first and second balls in that eighth over were full, jagging back at Root. The third ball was much shorter and the widest he had bowled to Root. The England captain’s eyes lit up, he attempted a back foot punch, but the ball moved away a touch to grab the outside edge. Root was gone. Bumrah had claimed the big scalp. Importantly, he had learnt the art of constructing a dismissal in Test cricket.
"In white-ball cricket, things are different — over there you outsmart the batsman, over here in Test cricket it's all about patience and consistency. That was my main focus today. You can't blast the batsmen out.
"We were just having a chat on what lines to bowl to Root. I had a chat with the captain. We tried to bowl a little fuller and then one back of a length. It helped today and we got the edge and the result," Bumrah told reporters when asked about how difficult it was to outsmart the batsmen in Test cricket.
Bumrah might be raw in Test experience, but he seems to have the brains to execute plans diligently against top-class batsmen. Importantly, he also has the patience and stamina. On Tuesday, he had bowled long probing spells without erring in line. The pace remained in excess of 85pmh and mind seemed to be full of ideas.
There was no sign of fatigue even after watching Ben Stokes and Jos Butler show great defiance for over three hours. In the end, it was Bumrah that finally broke the 169 run standby bowling that length which creates uncertainty in the batsmen mind. He used the width of the crease to create unique angles making it difficult for the batsmen to cover the line of the ball. Jonny Bairstow was knocked over playing inside the line. Few balls later, Bumrah had bounced out Chris Woakes. Like all great fast bowlers, he had changed the course of the innings in space of two overs.
Bumrah returned later in the day to claim the wicket of Stuart Broad to finish with figures of 5-89 from his 29 overs. He has also become the first Indian fast bowler to take two five-wicket hauls in his first four Tests.
Before the Test match, Virat Kohli was asked about the dilemma about having four fast bowlers fit and raring to go. The answer from the skipper was simple "as far as I'm concerned there is no dilemma." For the skipper, it was simple; if Bumrah is fit, he is here to stay. Kohli now has a bowler that he trusts and one that understands the art of taking wickets in the longer format of the game.