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Cricket news - Bumrah's rare off day amplified by knife-edge situation

Bumrah conceded more than three runs an over while his colleagues went under two in another display of unrelenting control

Bumrah conceded more than three runs an over while his colleagues went under two in another display of unrelenting control

Amid claustrophobic conditions for batting late on Day 3 of the Test Championship final, Kane Williamson and Devon Conway found a small window to complete an all-run four. Jasprit Bumrah had slipped in the outfield by the point boundary while giving chase. The fast bowler shrugged at his misfortune after his belated throw back to the 'keeper.

It was one of those weird days at the office the best of cricketers can have; You receive a mean inswinging yorker first up while batting and when it is your turn to repay in kind, the ball doesn't quite do your bidding. Such are Bumrah's standards that figures of 11-3-34-0 replete with many out-of-control responses from the batsmen is considered an off-day. He did, however, concede more than three runs an over while his colleagues went under two in another display of unrelenting control.

Bumrah shared the new Dukes ball with Ishant Sharma, the best proponent of swing in the line-up. He began over the wicket to Conway, and after a first over in which three deliveries slipped harmlessly down to the pads, he switched to bowling from around the stumps. If the line was a problem from one side of the stumps, finding the sweet spot of length became troublesome from the other, with both left-handers leaving impeccably. Conway and Tom Latham trusted the bounce and reached forward to two pitched-up deliveries for fours through the covers.

He bowled one more over before the Tea interval, the last of the session when he switched back to over the stumps and had Latham scrambling with a delivery that straightened from a fourth stump line. He didn't resume immediately in the final session and came back once more from the Hotel End. Again, Bumrah was unable to get his radar right, spraying the ball down the legside and conceding 10 from the over.

With the opening partnership blossoming to 54 - India had only two 50-plus stands in their innings - Kohli took his pace ace off the attack at a time when he would have wanted him bowling in tandem with Mohammed Shami, who had both the batsmen beaten, but couldn't hit his finisher. It was a strange period for India who appeared to be losing control, bowling four different bowlers between overs 27 and 30.

A combination of factors forced Kohli's hand to take Bumrah off. India's first innings total of 217, which while very competitive under the conditions, could be scaled by a couple of good partnerships, one of which was blossoming as Bumrah was finding his rhythm. In the middle of this wrangle between two high-functioning Test sides to eke out the first innings - an advantage that could dictate the fate of this low-scoring game - neither can afford to have a bowler not leaving his imprint. Least of all India, who showed admirable gumption in the face of a relentless and diverse five-man seam attack to get their runs and now had to match, or even better, that bowling performance with three pacers and a pair of spinners whose value may come to play a little later.

It is curious Bumrah struggled to hit his spots, especially in the final session where his first four overs cost 25. He has, afterall, built his reputation as an extremely quick learner who gets progressively better over spells and through a series. His search for the right lengths here was a throwback to his debut Test series in South Africa where he conceded over three runs an over in a low-scorer at Newlands before finishing the series with a fifer in Johannesburg.

He may also be short of bowling loads, having only played the IPL before this and used for merely six overs in the pink-ball Ahmedabad Test and 48 in all in the England series. A one-off final, especially one so intricately placed, is not the best time to be searching for rhythm. Then there's the pressure of having to deliver in conditions conducive for fast bowling which had afterall induced even New Zealand into bowling errors on the opening day.

India's problems though could have been compounded multifold had Ravichandran Ashwin not stepped up to fill in with a phenomenal display of defensive bowling under conditions that were not his staple. After giving away just 10 runs from eight overs, through his flight and pace deception, he even dislodged the 70-run opening stand. Not only did it offset Bumrah's profligacy but now gave him a right-handed target in Kane Williamson, against whom he found greater consistency of lengths and nibble off the surface right before close of play. Had bad light not intervened, he may even have opened his wickets column.

It was an absorbing day for India and Bumrah, whose minor lapse of rhythm was amplified by the game situation. On its own, keeping their high-quality opponents to 101 for 2 after 49 overs when they didn't find as much swing as them, would seem like another great day of work. New Zealand chased the game as well as they could have, but with Bumrah yet to join the pace party, they'll know they are still only chasing.