Monday, December 05, 2022

Brilliant inswinger from Bhuvneshwar to bowl Jos Buttler – same ball as he dismissed AB de Villiers in a Test

The ball clean bowled to Jos Buttler will go down in Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s career as one of the best inswingers ever. With a similar delivery that dropped the stumps of AB de Villiers in the Johannesburg Test in 2018.

Often, Bhuvneshwar hits a good length start, not too close to the batsman, to get his balls in or out. He bowled a lovely outswinger like the first ball last night to trouble Jason Roy. Or the inswinger to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar for his first duck in domestic cricket. For Butler it was a little fuller, almost at an observable length. This was one of the deviations from Bhubaneswar’s norm.

The ball was also pushed to the off side at the time of release. Good swing bowlers do that. James Anderson once explained it best that what he does with his fingers at release time depends on whether he wants an inswing or an outswing.

“If anything I’m thinking of the finger [at the release], With the inswinger, I can push it into the wide part of the off stump with my middle finger and expect it to come later. With the outswing, what I do with the (index) finger is that I try to push the ball into the stumps and then swing later. So with the inswing, the middle finger comes in last of the ball and the index finger departs late for the outswing.

Bhuvneshwar doesn’t always do that. That bit about pushing in or out, that is. This time he did the same.

The ball started turning away from the release line towards the off side. Butler was on the leg-stump guard, preferring to stay off the line.

In the past, against Bhuvneshwar he has tried both – crossing the stumps early or staying sideways. By March 2021, it had worked fine for Butler as he was not dismissed by Bhuvneshwar in any form of cricket in more than a hundred balls.

On that day in March, a few years earlier, incidentally, during another India comeback after an injury for Bhuvneshwar, Butler would make the shuffle to try to pull it off. But the ball hit off and middle and swung back to wrap it on the pads in front of the leg stump. Stranded lbw. Two games later, he would slow her out.

In last year’s IPL, he dismissed Buttler in the first over with a cunning outswinger, which was delivered to the wicket-keeper though it turned out to be a no-ball. That first spell was also accepted by Butler as a difficult test. So, of late, Bhuvneshwar troubled Butler with the new ball, and that too in the first over. And with both types of swings – in and out.

In this context the last match was played. This time, Bhuvneshwar’s inswinger started at full length as Butler remained close to the line. It deviated and then swung dangerously to upset Butler’s most prized possession at the crease: his balance.

When it goes awry, Butler’s game is in everyone’s hands. He has great hands to use that cricket terminology and he adjusts more and more often. And so he tried this time too. But the ball kept bending to thwart his hands and hit the stumps.

The delivery brought back memories of one of Bhuvneshwar’s best deliveries in Test cricket.

2018, Johannesburg. Like Butler’s ball last night, he also landed a little fuller than his usual. Unlike Butler, de Villiers went ahead. Unlike Butler, he had a more aggressive intention to drive through the line. In the end, when Butler learned he was in trouble and hoped his hands would get him out of jail, de Villiers didn’t have much doubt.

But actually the ball was the same. Before starting its dramatic inner journey, it was also pushed towards closure.

De Villiers went for his flamboyant drive and then alarm bells rang. The ball kept bending to move ahead with the flashing blade and hit the stumps.

De Villiers in a Test, Buttler in a T20I – not bad for Bhuvneshwar who is trying his best to get into the T20I squad for the World Cup.

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