Bumrah spearheads India’s defence of 119; Pakistan on brink of elimination


India 119 (Pant 42, Naseem 3-21, Rauf 3-21) beat Pakistan 113 for 7 (Rizwan 31, Bumrah 3-14, Hardik 2-24) by 6 runs

One team had Jasprit Bumrah. The other didn’t. And that was that. That was the difference. His legend is littered with incredible displays. But this will feel sweeter, not merely for the fact that it came in a T20 World Cup match against Pakistan, but for the fact that without his intervention this game would have almost certainly had a different ending. India defended 119. Pakistan lost after being 80 for 3. The finalists of the 2022 tournament are in serious danger of an early exit.

Pakistan need 40 runs off the last 36 balls with seven wickets in hand. ESPNcricinfo’s forecaster gave them a 93% chance of victory then. Poor thing. It’s been left on the fritz. Bumrah’s discipline, his calmness under pressure, his extraordinary skill, not just in delivering the right ball but in understanding what the right ball is, confounded man and machine alike In New York.

Ironically, all this happened because Bumrah refused to go searching for wickets. He just bowled what he thought would be unhittable – which was the back of a length delivery – and by doing it consistently he made Pakistan desperate. He forced them into a corner, which to be fair is their happy place in World Cups, but that wasn’t the case here. Here, there was only panic.
Mohammad Rizwan was made to believe that a full length ball was there to play a cross-bat shot. His stumps paid the price. Soon after knocking it back, Bumrah spread his arms wide and broke into a smile. That’s his usual celebration. But he didn’t stop there. He roared. And over 30,000 people at the ground roared with him. He punched the air. Millions joined him. This was the opening that India could build on. This was the crack that would cause the collapse. Rizwan, the set batter, fell for 31 off 44. Bumrah, who had accounted for Babar Azam earlier, also took out Pakistan’s final hope, Iftikhar Ahmed, in the 19th over. Of his 24 balls, 15 were dots. Somehow, even his full tosses proved game-changing.

Bumrah’s mastery carved out a piece of history: 119 is the joint-lowest total ever defended in men’s T20 World Cups.

India waited until the third over to deploy their super weapon. Then they had to wait until the 15th to bring him back. In between, they relied on others to keep the pressure up and two people in particular did that with aplomb. Hardik Pandya and his short-of-a-length offerings were always going to be a threat on this New York pitch with uneven bounce. He stopped Fakhar Zaman before he could play the kind of cameo that would kill chases like these. And then he took out Shadab Khan. Both times the batters were surprised by how high the ball was when they made contact with it. Hardik wasn’t. He just shrugged, as if to say, yeah, I do that. No big deal.
Axar Patel was the other unsung hero, bowling the first of the death overs and somehow keeping it to just two runs even though he was up against a left-hand batter with the short boundary on the leg side. Imad Wasim was never allowed to win the match-up as he was fed a diet of non-spinning deliveries that were angled across him and kept bouncing over his cut shots. Bumrah produced the biggest swing in momentum towards India according to Forecaster, 44% at the end of the 19th over. Axar produced the second-biggest swing, his defensive skills earning a 13% bump.

This was the best pitch to bat on in New York so far. But even that had its perils. Largely in the form of the ball not coming on, and occasionally with uneven bounce. Rizwan and Arshdeep Singh took blows to the hand.

A bit of luck is required in these conditions. Pant got that when he survived three catching opportunities in three balls and later survived an inside edge that could have gone onto the stumps. A bit of bravery helps. Pant showed that when he smashed Haris Rauf over extra cover. A bit of imagination doesn’t go amiss either. Pant epitomised that with a flick shot that he played while falling to the floor because that was the only way he knew how to get under a good length ball and put in the gap at fine leg. Later, to Imad’s highly accurate left-arm spin, he brought out the standing reverse sweep.

It was tough to bat out there. Pant’s unorthodox methods made him successful; made him stand out. He made 42 off 31 at a strike rate of 135. The rest of India made 70 off 84 at a strike rate of 83.

In the game against USA, Mohammad Amir was all over the place. In this one, he was spot on. Eight of the first 12 deliveries he bowled produced false shots. Early on with the new ball, he beat the bat three times in a row. Later on, with the old one, he was on a hat-trick. Pakistan demoted him to first-change and by the time he came on, India had already lost their two best batters, both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli caught off balls that stuck in the pitch, a theme that would continue for the rest of the innings. Amir had a soft entry but he made the absolute most of it. His best work coincided with the best phase of the game for Pakistan, when they strung four overs together between the 12th and the 15th where only eight runs were scored and four wickets were taken. India went from 89 for 3 to 96 for 7. At the halfway stage, Pakistan were ahead. Twenty overs later, they were facing elimination, in part because they weren’t the team with Jasprit Bumrah.

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