With the new ball, on the unresponsive surfaces England have dished out, the length ball is dessert on the house for any batsman. Not against Bumrah. What's a boundary ball for most other fast bowlers is a wicket-taking one for the ICC's No 1 ODI bowler.
The first ball from Jasprit Bumrah to Fakhar Zaman is short of a good length, on middle stump and right on the money. In red-ball cricket, that would count as a perfect warm-up ball. Zaman rocks back and defends under his watchful eyes. A good ball from the bowler. A solid response from the batsman.
Two balls after, Zaman has missed a flick and hit a full toss through extra cover for four. Bumrah shakes his head as he walks back, a timely chide to his brain for erring. The next ball is back of a length, going across the left-hander and beats the Pakistan opener on the cut. A good Test match delivery.
Zaman isn't flinching yet like Quinton de Kock appeared to be against Bumrah at Southampton. Bumrah's brain is tutored now. The next ball, very Test match-like, is a repeat of the previous one. Zaman frees his arms and watches it through to the keeper without offering a shot. The next is on the same spot, and is defended carefully.
There are no battle sirens hooting at The Oval; only the customary clamour from the crowd thronged in green and blue. But this was the final of an ICC event. The last time these two arch-rivals from the sub-continent faced off in a tournament final, Joginder Sharma and Misbah-ul-Haq happened.
Jasprit Bumrah steams in for his first delivery at Fakhar Zaman and dishes out a rank full toss on leg-stump. The southpaw shuffles across and looks to flick but misses entirely. A bad ball from the bowler. An even poorer shot from the batsman.
The next ball does not bother the batsman and is swinging down the leg-side. The one after that is on a good length, angled across and Zaman edges while defending and takes a single.
Bumrah bowls 13 balls at Zaman in that Champions Trophy final in 2017. The Pakistan opener, only four ODIs old at the time, takes 14 runs off them with two fours and six dots that include four mistimed strokes.
Only one of those 13 balls is remembered to date. A length delivery that Zaman edged to the keeper but survived because Bumrah had overstepped. An attritional battle between two exciting talents, yet not the most captivating.
Zaman would go on to make a match-winning 114 while Bumrah would finish 0/68 in 9 overs. Only twice has the Ahmedabad seamer finished with worse figures in an ODI innings. Both came before the Champions Trophy final at the Oval. In fact, since then, in 36 attempts, Bumrah has conceded at over seven runs per over in an ODI innings just once.
"That no-ball made me. I had a dream before the final (Champions Trophy, 2017) that I will be dismissed off a no-ball and it proved to be true," Zaman had told PTI.
The Pakistan left-hander, a flamboyant ball-striker who was picked to fill the void left by Sharjeel Khal three months before that Champions Trophy, has racked up 1762 runs at an average of 48.94 in the format. He has made four tons, including a double century against Zimbabwe, and is Pakistan's highest run-scorer in ODIs since that Champions Trophy final.
Striking at a rate more than 95 over the course of his short career, Zaman's biggest positive is that he has learned to curb his natural instincts. When Bumrah was persistent with his channels, the left-hander was prepared to weather the storm. He faced 16 balls from the Indian seamer at Manchester on Sunday. 13 of those were dot balls. Four of those were defended and two were left alone.
His 62 came off 75 balls, an atypical innings where he shed glam, decided to fight and take advantage later. He perhaps made two errors in the whole innings — both against Kuldeep Yadav. The second of those, a lazy, casual sweep shot, cost him his wicket. Only once before has Zaman faced more than 50 balls in an ODI innings and scored at a lesser rate.
This was a proper Test match setting, amplified by Bumrah's unwavering, diligent accuracy. Zaman has dipped his feet in Tests but after two half-centuries in either innings on his debut at Abu Dhabi against Australia, he struggled on the seaming decks in South Africa.
It's too early to say the format doesn't suit him. It's too early to say he does not have the patience to bat through an innings, a quintessential yesteryear quality sought in Test match openers. It's too early to say he wouldn't be smashing a hundred at the Lord's on 14 July, another Sunday. At Manchester, he survived a searing Bumrah opening spell. That's a qualification not many openers have in this day and age.
"He (Bumrah) believes he can nick people off with length balls. Whether it is a flat pitch, whether it is assisting bowlers or not, he can nick you off on any wicket. He has that belief that he can get batsmen out with good balls, even if the batsman knows what may come. It is so, so good to see when you see batsmen literally clueless against him and he's rushing people," Virat Kohli totally fanboys Jasprit Bumrah after his blinding opening spell against the Proteas in India's first match of the 2019 World Cup.
With the new ball, on the unresponsive surfaces England have dished out despite the rains at this World Cup, the length ball is dessert on the house for any batsman. Not against Bumrah. What's a boundary ball for most other fast bowlers is a wicket-taking one for the ICC's No 1 ODI bowler.
If the no-ball in that Champions Trophy final had not spurred Bumrah to do greater things in cricket, it's unlikely anything else would. The picture of him overstepping against Zaman in that final was mercilessly used by Jaipur police for a road safety ad with the tagline, "Don't cross the line, you know it can be costly."
From there, Bumrah's graph has only grown exponentially. He has 64 wickets in 36 ODIs at an average of 21 since that final. He still "crosses the line" on and off like in that IPL Qualifier when he had MS Dhoni caught out off a no-ball. But what has changed, and is still changing with every passing game, is his efficiency and all-format excellence.
Thrown into the deep sea in South Africa in whites, Bumrah made an effortless switch from white ball beast to white tee monster. In 10 Tests, Bumrah has 49 Test wickets including 21 in a single series in Australia where he led the wicket-takers chart.
What's more important, though, is how he has used the lessons from his short Test career to good effect in the 50-over format. His unnatural angle, elbow hyperextension, and delayed release are dissected at length. Little is talked about the brilliance of his thought process and the immaculate transmission of signals from the brain to his hands. That has propelled him to become the best bowler in the World, a tag that seems further away from every other contender each time he runs in to bowl.
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