The T20I at Indore, where Bumrah returned to international cricket after an injury-forced break, featured all of the above. But there was a twist in what was supposed to be a Bumrah show. The skilful Navdeep Saini turned out to the show-stopper delivering all the fast & furious stuff on Tuesday.
Saini bowled a 152.1 kmph rocket, gave away 18 runs in four overs and returned with two wickets. The Delhi pacer yorked Sri Lankan opener Danushka Gunathilaka, crashing the stumps with a 147.5 kmph thunderbolt.
In his last over, Saini bowled a perfect bouncer, the pace caught Bhanuka Rajapaksa by surprise. The batsman tried to hook, but couldn’t do much apart from edging it to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant. In between those Saini strikes, Kuldeep Yadav too snapped up two wickets to derail the Lankan innings.
The visitors posted a below-par 142 for 9 on a typical Indore belter. The target was never going to test the mighty Indian batting line-up. Opener KL Rahul, skipper Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer, promoted to No. 3, came good in the chase. With the top-order firing, India coasted to an easy seven-wicket win with 2.3 overs to spare.
If Bumrah’s return was the main theme, the subplot was the Indian openers’ — KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan — auditioning for a permanent slot to bat alongside Rohit Sharma.
Rahul looked good to start with. He did bulk of the scoring as India reached 71 for no loss in nine overs. But leggie Wanindu Hasaranga’s introduction curtailed his free-flow. In Hasaranga’s second over, Rahul (45;32b; 4×6) went down the pitch but missed a wrong one as India lost their first wicket. Dhawan, in comparison to Rahul, scored a sedate 29-ball 32. He too was sent back by Hasaranga.
By the time both Indian openers were back in the dugout, the job was almost half done. The asking rate wasn’t much as the hosts were 57 runs shy of the target and had 52 deliveries to get them in. Iyer blasted 15 runs in Hasaranga’s last over to further ease the required rate. Later, Kohli sealed off the win with his second six.
Not just the end, almost all the things went India’s way right from the start. “Want to see youngsters winning us games under pressure,” skipper Kohli said, after opting to chase. The pitch was a belter, the ground had short boundaries: enough pressure for the bowlers. The two freshers in the side — Saini and Washington Sundar — responded to their captain’s call.
Sundar’s first ball went for a boundary, a reverse sweep from Gunathilaka. But the off-spinner hit back in the same over. Gunathilaka’s opening partner Avishka Fernando charged down but failed to make good contact and Saini took a simple catch at mid on. In his next over, Sundar gave away just five runs. Saini joined him from the other end. In the next five overs, Saini and Sundar bowled in tandem but Lanka score just 27 runs. The choke set the stage up perfectly for Kuldeep Yadav.