India wins opening clash


“All positive experiences begin with a smile” tweeted Jasprit Bumrah less than 24 hours before India’s World Cup opener.

Accompanying the Twitter post was a photo of Bumrah grinning in front of the Indian team bus, yet after just six overs of play against South Africa the seamer was somehow beaming even more widely.

That smile stood in stark contrast to the Proteas top order’s expressions but in fairness, facing the world’s top-ranked ODI bowler is much more of a harrowing experience than a positive one.

And don’t be fooled by the sunny demeanour – the seam superstar has a ruthless streak.

In an ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup that has seen aggressive, exciting pace bowling return to the fore, it is only fitting that the man who is statistically the best in the world joined the party in style at his first opportunity.

Since his ODI debut against Australia in January 2016, nobody in world cricket has taken more wickets at the death than Bumrah’s 44 but at the Hampshire Bowl, it took the 25-year-old just three overs at the start of the innings to set a tone that India hope can continue for the entire tournament.

Opening the bowling from the Hotel End, his first over was a beauty – inducing a play-and-a-miss from Quinton de Kock on three occasions, with two of those almost cutting him in half.

And it only got better shortly after as some extra bounce meant the second ball of his second over took Hashim Amla’s outside edge and Rohit Sharma pouched the ball in the slips.

Bumrah’s fairly languid run-up – that starts with hands clasped and elbows wide – doesn’t suggest express pace but a quickening in the final five steps and rapid arm rotation generates bowling that regularly exceeds 140kph.

The penultimate ball of his third over certainly appeared to have too much for De Kock, as the South African opener swiped at a deceptively wide, full delivery and the edge carried safely to Virat Kohli at third slip.

His first three overs put the Proteas in disarray but perhaps most impressive was the calibre of wicket taken – a man with more than 18,000 runs in Amla and the fourth-ranked batsman in ODI cricket, who also averaged 96.40 against India heading into the game, in De Kock.

Bumrah delivered on the biggest stage and figures of 2/35 by the end of his ten overs perfectly illustrated the South Africans’ batting woes.

Much praise is heaped upon India’s explosive batting line-up, and understandably so. Rohit Sharma and Kohli have scored more ODI hundreds (64 following the former’s ton in Southampton) than the entire South African squad (61), while the other member of the top three, Shikhar Dhawan, carried an average of 64.69 at ICC tournaments into this match.

Yet with Bumrah as the spearhead, this Indian bowling unit is also capable of piercing any line-up they face.

With his two wickets in the 20th over – brilliantly clean bowling Rassie van der Dussen as he attempted a reverse sweep before sneaking between Faf du Plessis’ bat and pad to clatter the timbers – and final figures of 4/51, Yuzvendra Chahal demonstrated the potency of his leg-spin.

Fellow wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav trapped JP Duminy lbw with some exquisite ball flight, while being able to call upon the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya as seam complements to Bumrah provides enviable balance.

And when Sachin Tendulkar is calling it the most complete attack of this era, as he did earlier this week, it suggests something special is afoot.

So while it may have only been his opening gambit, if Bumrah has given any indication of what is to come, then he’ll continue to be all smiles for a good while yet.

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