Ben Jones analyses another remarkable day for the Indian seamer.
There was a moment today, where Jasprit Bumrah bowled a ball so good to Ben Stokes, that it made you stop. It made you catch your breath. It made you consider what a death delivery was supposed to be.
Was it supposed to just be a stopper in the bottle of the scoring rate, or was it supposed to be more? Was it supposed to be a tempter, a sighter above the eyes that draws the batsman in, gets people thinking that here it comes, here’s the boundary ball, only for that hope to disappear? Was it supposed to be a ball that made you feel hopeless, or a ball to destroy your hope?
It made you pause and properly try to empathise. How would I play that? How would I, sat here willing the ball to the boundary, have actually managed to send it for four or six? How would I take that dipping delivery, swooping like a swallow for the rafters in September, and make it a chance for runs? How could I play that?
It was 110kph, to put a number on it. For a man who averages above 140kph, that’s quite a drop. Stokes watched it onto the face, his bat horizontal at the point of impact, guiding it into the turf. It was respect almost taken to the point of parody. Bumrah has bowled one delivery slower than that in 2019. It swung 1.3° back into Stokes. Only 14 balls Bumrah has bowled all year have swung that much. When you’re working at the elite, you have to work at the extremes.
The ball dipped like nothing you’ve seen. Mitchell Starc bowled *that* ball to Stokes in the midweek, but this was altogether more emphatic. It was the lead single to this delivery’s album track banger, the one you find yourself no longer skipping, then skipping straight through to. It was gorgeous. It was terrifying. It was Jasprit Bumrah.
Jasprit Bumrah bowled five death overs today. He went for 26 runs. He’s never gone for less, when he’s bowled as many. When the opposition were fighting, scrapping for every run, Bumrah just calmly strolled in and delivered the best death performance of his career. Of course, it wasn’t as big a match for India as it was for England, but it was still huge. India will now likely meet England in the semi-final at this venue. You know, regardless of the spin, that Virat Kohli would have wanted to knock England out. A poor few weeks does not a bad side make.
But Bumrah knows his method now, he knows how this all plays out. Just 7% of his deliveries at the death today were on a good length. 57% were full; 36% were short. If you were going to wait for something in the slot, you were going to be waiting an awful long time. It’s nearing midnight as I write this – you’d still be waiting now.
The value of such bowling, against a side as good as England, is enormous. Mohammed Shami’s Bowling Impact today was +20. Bumrah’s was +21. CricViz analysis suggests that Bumrah’s bowling (one wicket) was more valuable than Shami’s (five wickets). It may not fill the wickets column, but judging by the cheers when he came on to bowl, Bumrah’s bowling fills the stands – and it does its job.
He’s in the sort of form you dream of as a fast bowler. His stuttering run-up never looks fluent, and Bumrah never looks as if everything is working well – but when the ball is released, it’s a kind of epiphany. Everything before just melts away, and what you’re left with is the perfect white ball bowler. Today, he never looked perfect running up to delivery the ball, and never looked less than perfect when he delivered it.
He’s developed his vibe, his style, to the extent that people know what a Bumrah spell looks like. Michael Atherton, on commentary today, commented that this was a classic Bumrah death over spell. He has been playing international cricket for a comparatively tiny amount of time, but people know what he is. In the last 12 months, Jasprit Bumrah has bowled 39 yorkers at the death. Nobody has bowled more.
What’s so impressive is that the yorker isn’t Bumrah’s only weapon. Whilst the other bowlers we discuss in this context take wickets almost exclusively with the yorker, Bumrah mixes it up. His bouncer is sharp, his good length ball can swing and nick you off. He can hurt you every which way.
That sort of variety weakens your brand, your identity, but strengthens your effectiveness. Bumrah doesn’t have the bare naked aggression of Mitchell Starc, that chaotic fear-inducement of Shoaib Ahktar, the unpredictability of Lasith Malinga, the angle of Wasim Akram. Yet he is more complete, more restrained, taut like a trip-wire laid across the crease over which too many batsmen have stumbled. He’s spectacular.
In the last 20 years, only two men have bowled as often as Bumrah at the death and had a better economy. Both – Flintoff and Hall – played in an era without the T20 hitting power that we now have in the ODI game. They were fishing with different bait, playing a different sport to the one Bumrah is dominating right now.
We can see this in the numbers, if we look closer. True Economy compares a bowler’s economy rate to the average for that phase of the game, and gives a better picture of what a bowler is doing. By this measure – a more accurate measure – what Bumrah is doing is historic.
It is elite, undeniably amazing, death bowling.
His impact on the game is hard to ignore. CricViz’s Impact model calculates how many runs a player contributes per match above/below what we would expect the average player to contribute. Since the Champions Trophy, no bowler has a better Bowling Impact than Bumrah.
So when do we start talking about it?
When do we start considering the whys and the wherefores of this man’s career? When do we start saying “if he can do this” and “if he manages this”. When do we start to genuinely frame his ability alongside the achievements of the greats?
For some, it’s now. For some, it’ll be in two weeks time if Virat Kohli raises the trophy, though that seems a spurious marker. For some, harder to please, it’ll take a decade, and to an extent fair enough. Respect is earned not gifted, and it’s earned over many, many overs bowled.
For some, it’s now. Now is the time the pages of history begin to flutter, the ink on the record books begin to run. He needs to keep it up, he needs to sustain this, he needs to do it around the world and at different points.
But Jasprit Bumrah could be on his way to being the best death bowler ever.
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.