Bhuvneshwar Kumar Shows India and England How to Bowl at Lord's

Jaideep VaidyaAnalyst IJuly 18, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 18:  Bhuvneshwar Kumar of India celebrates dismissing Gary Ballance of England during day two of 2nd Investec Test match between England and India at Lord's Cricket Ground on July 18, 2014 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

The second Test between England and India at Lord's has tilted in the visitors' favour at the end of Day 2. England were slightly ahead with an hour to go before stumps, but two almost freak wickets at the fag end of the third session meant the hosts ended the day at 219 for six, trailing India by 76 runs.

As the day progressed, the colour of the pitch magically transformed from its Wimbledon green to a haystack yellow, almost as if someone had Photoshopped it, as the commentators joked on air.

It was a clear indicator that the pitch, which had provided ample assistance to the bowlers on Day 1 and the first session of Day 2, was going to ease out as the match progressed.

This made the toss won by Alastair Cook on Thursday even more vital. But as play drew to a close on Day 2, you couldn't help but think that England had wasted a golden opportunity to be on top of this Test match.

The green pitch at Lord's on Day 1.
The green pitch at Lord's on Day 1.Gareth Copley/Getty Images

On the first day, after their captain had handed them first use of the green-top surface, the English bowlers kept it too short in two sessions out of three and allowed India to claw back from 145 for seven to an eventual 295.

Except for the afternoon session when four Indian wickets fell, the English bowlers were guilty of not making the Indian batsmen play enough. They were deservedly punished by Ajinkya Rahane's technical brilliance and the constant thorn in the side that is the Indian lower order.

As India came out to bowl on Day 2, they would have felt on top, having scored 100 runs more than what was expected of them. However, with four days to go, they would have known that the job was far from over.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar had been robbed of a game in both South Africa and New Zealand, probably because Indian captain MS Dhoni felt the nature of the tracks over there did not suite his medium-paced swing bowling.

However, if there was any country or conditions where Bhuvneshwar was expected to thrive, it was England. Unfortunately, the placid surface at Trent Bridge trolled any bowler who expected even the slightest bit of assistance from it.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar bent his back to pick up five wickets at Trent Bridge.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar bent his back to pick up five wickets at Trent Bridge.Stu Forster/Getty Images

Nevertheless, Bhuvneshwar bent his back and managed to grind out five English wickets out of nowhere, to add to his two half-centuries. Thus, when the covers were lifted off the pitch at Lord's on Thursday morning, he would've smacked his lips at the prospect of bowling here.

But as the English bowlers showed, it is one thing having a green pitch gifted to you and another to make use of it. As it turned out, India bowling second on the track, even though it continues to ease out every passing over, couldn't have worked out better for the Meerut lad.

Being given the new ball, Bhuvneshwar kept things very simple: He ensured that his length was nowhere near short and half-volley, he aimed for a line alternating between hitting the stumps and targeting the awkward area just outside off-stump, he got the ball to swing both ways and he just let the conditions do the rest.

And it worked out marvellously.

Bhuvneshwar dismisses England captain Alastair Cook on Day 2.
Bhuvneshwar dismisses England captain Alastair Cook on Day 2.Gareth Copley/Getty Images

So effective was his bowling in the first spell that Dhoni just refused to take him out of the attack. His figures at the end of the long spell read 10-4-17-2, and he looked as if he would have had no problem carrying on.

As the day progressed, he was used for shorter spells of six and three overs, but even as the rest of the Indian bowlers struggled on the pitch as it lost its nip, Bhuvneshwar was in a groove of his own. He ended the day with figures of four for 46 in 23 overs, having accounted for the top four English wickets.

India will have to manage their best bowler well if they expect him to last five Test matches. This would mean him bowling lesser overs, which in turn would warrant the rest of the Indian bowlers picking themselves up.

India's two other pacers, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, went wicketless after a hard toil in London's hottest day of the year, and for good reason. Like their English counterparts, they kept it short and didn't make the batsmen play. Like their English counterparts, they were made to pay with a ton, by Gary Ballance.

If only they had observed Bhuvi a little closely.

Bhuvneshwar ended Day 2 with figures of 4-46.
Bhuvneshwar ended Day 2 with figures of 4-46.Stu Forster/Getty Images

Bhuvneshwar lost out to James Anderson for the man of the match at Trent Bridge, but he has made great strides in getting his team a much-coveted win away from home, at the mecca of cricket.

Both Anderson and Bhuvneshwar have stood out as their respective teams' trump cards, for the simple reason that they keep things simple. Bhuvneshwar could profit a lot from observing how Anderson, a far more experienced campaigner, exploits the conditions to his favour and bowls in the right areas.

Not since the retirement of Kapil Dev have India found another productive and genuine seam-bowling all-rounder. If Bhuvneshwar can continue to bowl in the right channels, bat responsibly and his workload is managed well by India, the 24-year-old could just turn out to be the answer.