When the ball was new, it wasn’t really doing anything and Bumrah even got smacked for four fours in six balls. His first five overs actually cost 25 runs. But when he came back – with the ball still relatively hard, meaning it was carrying through nicely – he posed an entirely different challenge. Bumrah’s subsequent spells tallied up to 6 for 20 in 10.5 overs. He took more wickets than the spinners (6 vs 4). He bowled five times as many maidens as them (5 vs 1). He even bowled more overs than India’s lead spinner (15 vs 12).
Bumrah was happy things worked out in his favour but he isn’t getting carried away, even if he now has the best bowling average (12.8) for a seamer in India (min. five innings played).
“You understand because you are playing three spinners and they will do a lot of work but whatever role you have you have to try and make an impact,” he said. “And today was a good day I got six wickets but it’s not going to happen every other day, but whenever I can help the team. How can I make things difficult, what is the best way? I try and search for answers. Some days it will not happen, that is how sport works. When the good days happen to try and enjoy it and take that confidence.”
Bumrah dismissed virtually all of England’s best batters, taking down Nos. 3 to 6 and then mopping up Nos. 9 and 10. One of those six wickets was an incredible reverse-swinging yorker to dismiss Ollie Pope. But that wasn’t his favourite dismissal.
“Joe Root’s,” he told the host broadcaster, “Because we understand it’s an important wicket in this Test match. He’s a world class batter and we know on this wicket, to get his wicket was really important because the wicket isn’t doing a lot. It’s a slow wicket. We understood that was an important phase and if we get him out that leaves you in an advantage there. We understand how important he is for the England team so very happy with that.”
Bumrah has an excellent record against Root: eight dismissals for 245 runs in 20 innings.
India’s total of 396 seemed a little light until Bumrah came back and did his thing. “Yesterday evening we felt we lost two-three wickets more than we wanted to,” he said. “So we wanted to capitalise as much as we can. Yashasvi played a brilliant innings and kept us in the game. The wicket is not doing a lot. There’s no demons in the wicket. Yes, the odd ball might turn, yes the odd ball might swing. Even with the new ball, nothing much was happening. It felt like you’d rather bowl with the older ball than the new ball. But I feel the wicket is really good. Hopefully we can capitalise tomorrow.”
England came hard at Bumrah too but he didn’t mind. “You have to be wary of what you want to do because if the ball is not doing a lot, you want to give control to the team,” he said. “So I was just focusing on that. Yes, obviously some good balls also went for four, but that’s okay. If I back myself and if I bowl some good balls, with the way England is playing, you feel you’re always in play. Because if you go after the bowlers, if you bowl good deliveries, there is something, the odd ball might seam and you might be in play.”
India’s other fast bowler had a bit of a tough day. Mukesh Kumar bowled seven overs and gave away 44 runs.
“That can happen to anyone because he’s just starting to play international cricket,” Bumrah said. “He’s just starting to play Test cricket. Obviously we have a lot of confidence in him. This is a long series. Obviously you have to rotate players. So that is the mindset, I think. But obviously you always learn by making mistakes. So that’s how cricket is. It gives you the answer after the questions. So that’s how it is. I don’t look at it as a bad day. It’s just a learning day. Everybody’s made mistakes. Even I made mistakes. That is the conversation that we’ll have that okay, that day has passed. Now we move forward now.”
Bumrah has played more Tests away (28) than he has at home (6). He was still able to produce the goods because he breaks the game down into simple questions and tries to solve for them.
“I started my journey in South Africa so I understood I have some experience what do I have to do here? Yes, over here I’ve played less number of Test matches but a lot of first-class cricket so then I go back to first-class cricket I think about what has worked for me when the wicket is very flat, what do I do? So keep an eye on the game, where the game is heading, back your ability, keep trying to stay in the present, all of those things are part of my plan that how do I find answers? Whenever I’m playing any game, the questions that come up then you try and search for answers, so that is my basic process that how do you solve problems? So that is the biggest thing that I enjoy the most.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo