Patrick Noone analyses the six balls that clinched the game for India at Old Trafford
Sport is about moments. The moments that define matches, tournaments, even careers. We talk about ‘big game players’ who routinely step up and deliver such moments to seize the initiative, change the course of a match or make the crucial contribution at the crucial time to turn the game in their team’s favour.
In Jasprit Bumrah, India have a bowler who produces this kind of moment with such regularity that his career is starting to resemble a highlights package of match-defining balls, wickets or spells.
In the penultimate over of India’s last outing in this World Cup, with Afghanistan needing 21 runs from 12 balls, Bumrah delivered five perfect yorkers and a low full toss that cost him just five runs, leaving Afghanistan with too much to do in the final over.
Today, Bumrah’s killer blow to West Indies’ hopes of chasing 269 came in the form of a double-wicket maiden in the 27th over. In truth, the stakes were not as high today in Manchester as they were on Saturday in Southampton. It was the middle of the innings and West Indies had already been reduced to 107-5 when Bumrah began the second over of his second spell.
But in Carlos Brathwaite, the man who took his side so close to victory on this very ground just five days ago in a similarly improbable run chase against New Zealand, West Indies had a man at the crease more than capable of dragging his side back into the contest.
It was early in Brathwaite’s innings though and he was yet to get going. He never would. Bumrah struck with the first ball of the over with a beauty that swung one way and seamed the other, just enough to tempt Brathwaite to have a nibble at, just enough to find the edge of his bat, before MS Dhoni was able to stretch just enough to take the catch behind the stumps.
You have to feel a bit for Fabian Allen at this stage. Playing in his first World Cup match, walking to the crease with his team in more than a spot of bother, the partisan India crowd on their feet and making a cacophonous noise to greet him, he could perhaps have been forgiven if the occasion got to him. Especially when you consider what he was having to face from Bumrah, a bowler with his tail up, creating another seminal moment in front of our eyes.
Allen would only last ball – at 143kph it was the quickest delivery of Bumrah’s over and it cannoned into the right-hander’s front pad. The umpire’s finger went up, the crowd noise that had gone from roar to hubbub was reignited once again. Allen reviewed the decision, perhaps realising that him surviving was now West Indies’ best chance of getting over the line, or perhaps genuinely thinking it was going past leg stump. Not so; Bumrah had been able to straighten it just enough – 0.5° to be precise – for the verdict to be umpire’s call.
107-5 had become 107-7 in a flash and India were almost home. Kemar Roach was the next man in, the man to face the hat-trick ball. Roach is a capable batsman, certainly for a number nine. He played his part in the drama of the New Zealand match on Saturday, hanging around for 31 balls and 14 runs, but keeping out Bumrah was going to be a different challenge altogether.
As Bumrah started his idiosyncratic, stuttering run up, the atmosphere was one of expectancy – almost certainty – that he would complete the three-card trick. As the ball left Bumrah’s right hand, and floated out at just 97kph, there was a split second in which everyone watching expected the batsman to be bamboozled and for the zing bails to light up.
Bumrah’s slower ball has been a potent weapon for him ever since he made his international debut in 2016. He has taken 24 wickets with it in all formats, eight of them bowled and, famously, one LBW when Shaun Marsh was trapped in front during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne last year. The hat-trick ball today was even slower than the Marsh dismissal – 97kph compared to 112kph – but the lines of the two balls were almost identical.
Roach was equal to it on this occasion though. He got his bat down and defended the hat-trick ball – an inch-perfect yorker that Bumrah could hardly have executed better. It was a delivery more than worthy of dismissing a batsman of greater repute than Roach but, on this occasion, he was able to keep it out and Bumrah was denied his hat-trick. He would see out the rest of the over too, defending twice and ducking once as Bumrah finished off his work for the day – six overs, one maiden, two for nine.
A hat-trick would have been the icing on the cake for Bumrah; the obvious, show-stopping moment, on a level that even he is yet to reach in his astonishingly successful career to date. Perhaps we were denied that moment, but this over was no less thrilling as a result. Sometimes, the best moments are the ones that give you just enough, the ones that leave you wanting just a little bit more.
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.