Bowling an “Indian length” in the first innings in Cape Town, on Test debut, is an error Jasprit Bumrah has admitted to. In a low-scoring match that featured no centuries, just three half-centuries, and assistance for seam bowlers throughout, India conceded 286 in the first innings after having reduced South Africa to 12 for 3. After that India were left to play catch-up, which they did with an improved performance with the ball in the second innings, but the damage had already been done on the first day.
Bumrah himself was the main culprit, the only bowler to bowl half-volleys in the first session, which Faf du Plessis drove at with relish. “In the first innings we thought we bowled a little fuller than the normal because in India the wickets are different where we have to pitch fuller to get the swing and to get the batsmen on the front foot,” he said. “Over here there is bounce, there is a little bit of difference. We analysed that and tried to adapt in the second innings, and as a unit we were able to create pressure, so that was the basic plan going into the second innings. That worked well. So hopefully, we will see videos of these wickets, what happens over here and we plan according to it.”
India didn’t train at all on the day before the first Test, and at the end of the match the visiting captain Virat Kohli said there was nothing wrong with the preparation. However, this is not the first time that India’s fast bowlers have failed to adjust to conditions, and it cannot be all down to preparation. What happens out in the middle is completely different.
Bumrah is reputed to be a quick learner, which has already made him one of the best – if not the best – bowlers in limited-overs cricket. To his credit, Bumrah showed that ability to learn quickly and did not repeat the mistakes in the second innings. He was driven 28 times in 19 overs in the first innings, but once he realised the mistake, he pulled the length back and was driven only 12 times in the 11.2 overs he bowled. He began to hit the pitch hard on that heavy in-between length, and bowled a brute to dismiss du Plessis.
“We realised what mistakes we made in the first innings, so we were trying to create pressure from both ends and focus on our lengths, which were wrong in the first innings,” Bumrah said. “We just tried to correct them and not overdo things because over here, when there is help from the wicket, you try to do extra but that won’t help. So we were just trying to be disciplined and stick to basics.”