India vs England: Onus on Bumrah to match Anderson on his home turf
Bumrah has earlier spoken of how he looks to learn from successful bowlers and how they use the conditions. He would be keenly observing how Anderson goes about his craft.
Even after a sensational spell of reverse swing in the first Test, there was a reason why England rested James Anderson (and India rested Jasprit Bumrah) for the second game of the series.
Apart from England's well-known rotation policy, the two sides also wanted their premier pace bowlers absolutely fresh for the day-night pink ball Test. Pitches made for day-night Tests always have a bit of grass on them so that the ball is sighted more easily and the ball itself is harder than its red cousin; both conditions that favour fast bowlers.
“It (the SG pink ball) will stay harder, has a harder seam, (will stay) quicker for longer because of it staying firmer for longer,” was England captain Joe Root’s assessment on the eve of the game.
Motera then, is expected to present a completely different set of playing conditions compared to the superbly spin-friendly pitches at Chepauk where the first and second Tests were played.
In his short but eventful career so far, Bumrah has been part of many famous contests. He is not used to coming second best. In the first Test, veteran Anderson showed him that he still has much to learn.
Anderson versus Bumrah will be a mini-contest in this much-awaited Day-Night Test. Anderson is the most successful pace bowler of all-time and with each series Bumrah has been staking claim to the tag of the best of the next generation. Motera is Bumrah’s home ground too and this will be his first Test appearance there, which makes it a perfect stage.
When in full flow, the Gujarat bowler has proven equal to all challenges. Anderson is one bowler though who has put him in the shade on most occasions. In the 2018 series, Anderson took 24 wickets in five Tests leading England to a 4-1 win. Bumrah didn’t do badly, claiming 14 wickets in the three Tests he played, but fell short of a series-defining performance.
What would have rankled Bumrah more is being outperformed in the first Test of this series. In a famous exhibition of reverse swing, Anderson produced a three-wicket burst on the fifth day to finish with a five-wicket match haul and steal the headlines again. Bumrah did a decent job but nothing spectacular to finish with a four-wicket game haul.
Bumrah has earlier spoken of how he looks to learn from successful bowlers and how they use the conditions. He would be keenly observing how Anderson goes about his craft. The all-important lesson from Chennai was how Anderson zeroed in on the exact spot from where he had to pitch and start to reverse. He had Bumrah to thank for it. The Indian bowler had shown the ideal length to bowl when he got one to dart in to catch Joe Root unawares in front of the stumps--his only wicket in the six overs he bowled in the second essay. Before departing, the England captain took his time, walked up to the spot where the ball had landed, tapped the place a few times as if to send a message to his veteran pacer. Anderson delivered a virtuoso performance from the first ball, landing the ball at the spot with masterful accuracy to breach the solid Shubhman Gill's defense before doing the same to Ajinkya Rahane.
At Ahmedabad, both teams will be walking into the unknown as it is the first-ever Test match at the renovated Stadium. The key will be to figure out quickly what the surface has to offer and how to best exploit it. That’s where England will bank on Anderson’s experience; Bumrah will be watching Anderson carefully.
Depending on whether a healthy grass cover is retained, Anderson will be dangerous to face with the new ball as he will bank on conventional swing. If the surface is dry, then the Indian batsmen will have to watch out for his control and movement with the old ball. The England ace, with 611 wickets to his name, reserves his best for India--having taken more wickets (115) against India than any other opponent. With the series and a place in the World Test Championship on the line, the onus is on Bumrah to match him. Being his first Test on his home turf, the India star won't be short of inspiration.