By Amlan Chakraborty
SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) – India’s Mohammed Shami made a fairytale World Cup debut with a final over hat-trick but it was team mate Jasprit Bumrah who produced an extraordinary display of virtuoso bowling in Saturday’s narrow escape against Afghanistan.
In a supreme display of control and accuracy, Bumrah kept lobbing the white Kookaburra ball unerringly at the feet of the petrified Afghan batsmen at the Hampshire Bowl.
Shami (4-40) became only the second Indian, after Chetan Sharma in 1987, to claim a hat-trick in the World Cup but Bumrah walked away with the man-of-the-match award for what his relatively modest figures of 2-39 do not reveal.
Afghanistan were inching towards an upset win with Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi looking at home on a slow pitch on which India’s vaunted lineup had earlier managed a below-par 224-8.
Virat Kohli then did what the India captain usually does in search of a breakthrough and brought back Bumrah for a second spell.
The 25-yer-old duly turned the match on its head, conjuring up a maiden double-wicket over, accounting for both batsmen in a span of three deliveries.
Afghanistan’s never-say-die attitude meant the job was not done yet.
Mohammad Nabi was approaching his fifty and Afghanistan needed 21 runs from 12 balls when Bumrah returned to burnish his death-overs reputation.
Bowling yorkers at will is the quick’s calling card and he hurled them on Saturday with ice in his veins.
He sent down five yorkers — Nabi stepped forward to turn one of them into a full toss — in that over and conceded only five runs to leave Shami with some cushion going into the final over.
“It’s simple. We wanted to use him smartly when the conditions allow,” Kohli said of his spearhead.
“He is the bowler who can do the damage at any stage of the innings and the opposition knows that as well.
“The communication was to finish him off at 49th over so that Shami has enough runs to defend in the last over and yeah the plan worked really well today.”
It was a bowling masterclass spread over three spells with Bumrah containing in the first and wrecking in the second before setting the stage for Shami’s last over heroics.
“What we wanted was to create pressure by taking the run rate high,” Bumrah said.
“As soon as the run rate goes up they’ll create chances. That was the plan. And it was a good day. It worked.”
Before the match, Bumrah had complained that the English pitches are the flattest in one-day cricket where the ball does not really seam or swing.
On Saturday, he went on to demonstrate how to succeed on the surface.
“The wicket was getting slower and slower, so with the older ball it was necessary to be accurate and bowl stump-to-stump,” said Bumrah, the only bowler in the top rank of India’s annual contracts.
“There is a bit of reverse swing as well so you rely on your yorkers. It was a tight game and I was backing my yorkers.”
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty; editing by Pritha Sarkar)