Bumrah inspires India’s short burst to history | Cricket

In the shortest Test of all time, India had to get everything right and with the exception of a 11-ball blackout on Day 1, one can argue they did exactly that to level the series 1-1 and claim their first ever victory at Cape Town.

Jasprit Bumrah during the 2nd Test Day 2 against South Africa at the India Tour of South Africa 2023-24, at Newlands Cricket Ground, in Cape Town (BCCI Twitter)

The match lasted a mere 642 deliveries — partly due to the dramatic movement pacers extracted from the wicket and partly due to the technique of the modern batters — and there will be questions asked about the pitch but in such conditions, every mistake has the potential of being amplified many times over. Just because you are ahead doesn’t mean it would stay that way.

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And that is why as Day 2 of the second Test at Cape Town began, India were on high alert. South Africa were trailing by 36 runs with six second-innings wickets in hand but given the collapses witnessed on the first day, it was important to finish their innings off as quickly as possible.

Sharma may have been worried but he didn’t really have to because Jasprit Bumrah was on hand to allay the fears of his skipper with a brilliant spell of bowling.

Just six balls into the morning session, he sent back David Bedingham (11). A little later, Kyle Verreynne (9) went for an ill-advised pull shot to give Bumrah his second wicket of the morning. And the Indian pacer added to the misery of the home side by sending back Marco Jansen (11).

Suddenly, despite Aiden Markram looking like he was batting on a different pitch, the South Africa innings was in danger of being wrapped up very quickly. But this is perhaps where India missed a trick. While Bumrah was doing his thing, Rohit employed Mukesh Kumar from the other end whereas the first innings star, Mohammed Siraj was fresh and ready to go.

It gave Markram some breathing room and the opener made full use of that to play an innings for the ages. He didn’t seem like he was in a rush, which was in stark comparison to many of the other batters in the game. While everyone else was playing and missing, his shot selection was impeccable.

He was dropped by KL Rahul on 73, but he made the most of that to end up with 106 out of South Africa’s total of 176. His 106 accounted for 60.22 percent of their second innings total and that is a South African record.

If more of his team mates would have taken a leaf out of his book, South Africa might have been able to set a challenging target. But they were bowled out for 176 and that meant India has just 79 runs to get in their second innings.

Siraj’s superb show set the match up for India on Day 1 and Bumrah’s 6/61 in the second innings finished things off in fine style. The pacers, as they so often have, came good for India once again. Bumrah found his length and was quick to change it when the lower order came into the picture. After bowling the hard lengths initially, he started pitching it up later on.

“This ground will hold a special place in my heart,” said Bumrah after the game. “Fond memories of my first game and happy it went well for me. The journey started in 2018 and we wanted to create an impact in all conditions. In India, the spinners do a lot more work. The team is now going through a transition but the message is the same. It’s difficult to keep coming at it; we were happy we were able to do it in this game. I didn’t expect this was going to happen (shortest Test) but a great series.”

A few early wickets could have set the cat among the pigeons but Yashasvi Jaiswal hit a quick 28 off 23 balls to take the tension out of the proceedings. The 44-run opening stand put the result beyond doubt.

The conditions were not easy for batting but India will walk away from the series knowing that another opportunity to win a Test series in South Africa has come and gone. There will be talk of whether the preparation for the tour could have been better and whether that would have given them a better chance given that they had plenty of young players in the squad.

“When you come to this part of the world,” said Sharma after the win. “It’s always difficult but we take pride in our performance outside of India. South Africa always challenge us and for us to come out here and win, we can take pride in this performance.”

It almost seems a shame that the series was only two Tests long. There will be no chance to find a clear victor and given how the first two Tests went, fans would have looked forward to the two sides clashing again. But for the first time since 2010/11, India have drawn a series in the Rainbow nation. It isn’t a series win but winning at Cape Town has a special ring to it.

“It’ll be one of our best Test match victories,” Sharma said after India’s seven-wicket win. “Having not won here in Cape Town [before], obviously this puts it right up there with all the victories that we’ve had. It’s very hard to compare the Test matches that you play because every Test has its own importance and own relevance. The Test we won at The Gabba as well. The last Test that was lost by Australia in Brisbane was in 1988, I think…It kind of became like their fortress. They never lose a Test there.”

Sharma added: “And the way we won that Test was quite important. From where we came, we were 1-0 down, we won in Melbourne and then we drew the Test match in Sydney and then won in Brisbane. So, you can’t really rank the Tests, but this has to be right up there because we had not won here. That shows how important a venue this is for us to come here and perform. I give a lot of credit to our team to put up a performance like that and win the game.”

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