Bhuvneshwar’s burst gives India shot at win
Despite a rained-out day and the slow rate of scoring in the first two innings, India entertained thoughts of winning the St Lucia Test thanks to a masterful spell of swing bowling from Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Playing his first Test in a year and a half, Bhuvneshwar swung through the West Indies side with a spell of 11.4-6-16-5 as West Indies went from 202 for 3 to 225 all out.
With 98 overs to go in the match and a lead of 285 in the bag, India could think of declaring soon on the fifth morning. They made a good start to the endeavour, scoring 157 for 3 in the 39 overs they got on day four, a rate well higher than the 2.48 an over in the first two innings.
Bhuvneshwar, and for that matter Ravindra Jadeja, is not Virat Kohli’s first choice. He prefers Umesh Yadav’s pace and Amit Mishra’s leg-spin. Post lunch on day four, with West Indies going fairly well in their quest to ensure they don’t lose this Test, it was Bhuvneshwar and Jadeja who turned the match around with the second new ball.
There’s a reason why Bhuvneshwar was Kohli’s last resort. He bowled the entire match-changing spell without a fine leg. No fine leg, no long leg, no backward square leg. No man behind square on the leg side. Kohli prefers his wickets with batsmen fending at express quicks.
It was a sign that the young captain is not stubborn in that he first selected Bhuvneshwar and then gave him the field that works with his bowling. Bhuvneshwar was about to show him the other way of taking wickets.
Kohli had taken the new ball as soon as it became available just before lunch despite the struggles of Jermaine Blackwood and Marlon Samuels against the turning old ball. It was a session in which an India bowler took a wicket for the first time in 528 legal deliveries. If the last wicket off a bowler shouldn’t have been given out – Shane Dowrich on the last day in Jamaica – the legality of this 528th delivery was in doubt.
It was an Ishant Sharma bouncer that Darren Bravo top-edged after taking his eyes off, but Ishant didn’t quite seem to have a part of his foot behind the crease. It wasn’t an obvious no-ball, though, and after multiple replays the third umpire ruled in favour of the bowler, perhaps acting on the new ICC directive to grant the benefit of doubt to the bowler.
R Ashwin went on to get the other overnight batsman, Kraigg Brathwaite, and the two spinners had Samuels and Blackwood uncomfortable. Kohli took the new ball and handed it over to Bhuvneshwar. The batsmen had added 59 before lunch, they can both punish errors in line, but through the spell Bhuvneshwar conceded only two shots to fine leg.
Blackwood was the first one to go, having faced 15 straight dots from Bhuvneshwar, who bowled a length fuller than he did with the first new ball. The 16th was an outswinger that Blackwood, who loves bat on ball, couldn’t resist. Kohli took one of the more predictable edges at second slip.
It took less persistence to set Samuels, 48, up. With Blackwood facing the Bhuvneshwar swing almost exclusively, it was only during the 10th over with the new ball that Samuels was presented to Bhuvneshwar. This time Bhuvneshwar was in no mood for slow cooking. Four outswingers later, he went wide on the crease, slipped in an inswinger, and Samuels, surprised by it all, played on.
Kohli brought Jadeja on at the other end, and he kept creating trouble with the ones that went straight on. The one that turned, though, got the man who had denied India in Jamaica, Roston Chase. Bhuvneshwar’s masterclass continued at the other end. Jason Holder was caught on the back foot by one that angled in, and Alzarri Joseph followed a straight ball outside off.
With a remarkable five-for in sight, Bhuvneshwar’s persistence was thoroughly tested by his fielders. There were signs he was tiring – the second ball of the 10th over was short and pulled for four, reducing the spell analysis to 9.2-6-11-4 – but he still produced the edge from Shane Dowrich.
KL Rahul dropped his second chance of the match at third slip, but it took the third umpire to ascertain it that he had grassed it. In his next over, Bhuvneshwar was offered what should have been his through an ill-advised pull from Dowrich. Rohit Sharma, though, dropped a relatively easy catch at midwicket; he suggested he had lost the ball in the sun. Later in that over Bhuvneshwar was denied a pretty straightforward lbw by the umpire; Miguel Cummins was the beneficiary this time.
A change in bowling at the other end worked. R Ashwin ended this frustrating 6.5-over partnership, and Bhuvneshwar bowled another over to complete his third Test five-for. (ESPNCricinfo)
Cover photo caption: Bhuvneshwar Kumar was impressive with his swing bowling