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Jasprit Bumrah’s Opening Spell

England were brought back to Earth with a bump, as an inspired new ball spell from Jasprit Bumrah blew them away in front of a shell-shocked crowd at the Kia Oval.

Much has been made of England’s new-found aggression with the bat in the longest format this summer, but if BazBall has been the buzzword during the four thrilling Test victories, today it was JasBall as India’s brilliant new ball bowler tore through England’s top order with an expert display of pace, seam, swing and bounce that was too much for one of the finest ODI batting lineups ever assembled, on paper at least.

The conditions were in Bumrah’s favour – the 0.77° of seam movement in the first ten overs is the second highest average figure ever recorded at the Oval, with the figure from the Pavilion End, where Bumrah bowled from, up at 1.29° – but that should take nothing away from the skill with which he bent those conditions to his will, removing Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Liam Livingstone before the end of the first Powerplay.

Roy’s recent form has been indifferent, and he was guilty of chasing a wide one, keen to feel bat on ball, but he did not account for the movement through the air – 2.7° to be precise – that forced him to inside edge the ball onto his stumps.

Then it was Joe Root, a man whose recent form in the Test arena has been anything other than indifferent, who was beaten by Bumrah extracting some extra bounce. It looked as though Root was initially trying to play the ball down to third man, but quickly tried to readjust as the ball got big on him. Unable to get his bat out of the way in time, Root got a faint edge that was gratefully snaffled by Rishabh Pant.

A measure of how difficult the wicket ball was to play can be seen in the beehive and pitch map below. The ball that dismissed Root pitched 8.5m from the stumps and had bounced 1.3m at the point it passed the stumps. Meanwhile, a ball on a similar length later in the innings pitched on almost identical length and bounced a ‘normal’ amount of 1.0m. It was actually one of the slowest balls Bumrah bowled at 134kph, but such was the ferocity of the extra bounce that Root appeared beaten for pace.

For a fast bowler, the beauty of occasions such as this, when the ball is swinging and seaming to such prodigious levels, is that even the deliveries that don’t swing or seam can prove dangerous as batters get spooked and attempt to play for movement that never arrives. That was how Bairstow fell as Bumrah bowled an inswinger that only deviated 0.05° off the pitch, when the batter could reasonably have expected a lot more. It meant he was cramped for room and could edge behind to Pant for the second of his three catches.

Liam Livingstone was the last of Bumrah’s victims in his opening spell, as he once again found an unplayable amount of movement. The wicket ball swung in a whopping 3.2°, more than any other delivery Bumrah bowled in the innings and Livingstone, having given himself room to play through the leg-side, left his stumps exposed and departed for a seven-ball duck.

It meant that, at this point, Bumrah had four wickets: two from finding more swing than the batters expected, one from finding less swing than the batter expected and one from finding more bounce than the batter expected. Bearing in mind the quality of the batters he was dismissing, the variety of ways he was getting them out and not to mention the fact that all of this was done at speeds between 134kph and 145kph, this has to be considered one of the great opening spells in ODI history.

Bumrah was later required to come back for a second spell and wrap up the innings by bowling Brydon Carse and David Willey with his two fastest deliveries of the day, but the real damage had already been done. Questions will be asked about England’s approach as the inauspicious start to Jos Buttler’s permanent captaincy continued, but in truth there was little any team could have done against such a high-quality bowler operating on such an elite level.

The games come so thick and fast for England that they only have two days to lick their wounds and work out how best to counter Bumrah before the second ODI at Lord’s on Thursday. The conditions might not favour him quite so much there, but you wouldn’t back against him finding a way to wreak havoc again, whatever the weather.

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