India v South Africa, Champions Trophy, Group B, The Oval June 11, 2017

Meticulous Bhuvneshwar sends South Africa packing

Bhuvneshwar Kumar sent down an opening spell in which he gave nothing away to send South Africa into a shell they never recovered from

© ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Star turn

Bhuvneshwar Kumar relishes playing on English soil. He had a significant hand in India lifting the Champions Trophy in 2013, taking six wickets in five matches, averaging 22.83 and giving away just 3.91 an over. A year later, he was India's player of the series for his 247 runs and 19 wickets, even as his team were routed 3-1 in the Pataudi Trophy.

Given his ability to find prodigious swing, Bhuvneshwar was always going to be integral to India's chances of defending their title. He came into the tournament with a bagful of wickets from the IPL and an enhanced reputation as a death bowler. In India's tournament opener, he sent down an economical opening spell and broke through for India to set up their 124-run rout of Pakistan. Likewise, he struck early against Sri Lanka, and though they bossed a chase of 322, he still finished his 10 overs having gone at under six.

On Sunday, with India facing a must-win, Bhuvneshwar tied down a powerful South African order with a meticulous opening spell that was underpinned by immaculate lines. He gave the South African batsmen next to no width outside the off stump. His straight length balls meant Quinton de Kock was fed nothing to his strengths through the covers or square of the wicket. It left the South African openers to drive on the up or go for the harder option of dragging deliveries from outside off through the leg side. So accurate was Bhuvneshwar that Virat Kohli was able to afford Test-match fields. By the time he ended his opening spell of five overs, only 12 deliveries had been scored off and one boundary conceded.

With Jasprit Bumrah, too, proving to be equally potent at the other end, South Africa were limited to 35 in the first Powerplay. Their innings never quite gathered steam thereafter, and it meant that when Bhuvneshwar came back for his second spell, at the end of the 39th over, South Africa were hobbling at 175 for 6. He made sure the choke was maintained with a three-run over. Two overs later, he produced a couple of away-swingers to send back Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel off successive balls. South Africa were nine down and were soon sent packing for an underwhelming total.

The wow moment

Bumrah was ready to bowl the 43rd over when Kohli made a late decision to throw the ball to Bhuvneshwar. The change of ends worked almost immediately as Bhuvneshwar picked his first wicket with the second delivery of the over. It was a delivery that had wicket written all over it - on a length, pitching on middle, forcing the batsman to play at it and finding just enough lateral movement to kiss the outside edge of Rabada's bat. MS Dhoni was equally sharp behind the stumps, diving forward to complete the catch with the ball dying on him.

Stats that matter

  • Bhuvneshwar is India's most economical bowler this tournament, going at 4.44 an over, and it was the same today with a rate of 3.06.

  • Bhuvneshwar now has 11 wickets against South Africa in eight ODIs - his best against any team.

Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Manish on June 13, 2017, 6:46 GMT

    @ALLROUNDCRICKET: "India got lucky with run outs otherwise their 5th bowler Hardik would have been exposed." You don't get lucky. The Indian bowling forced the SA batsmen to take risks. Caused panic. And that's why the run-outs happened. It's plain pressure. The bowlers get credit for the run outs as much as the fielders. Simple.

  • kherud0228191 on June 13, 2017, 0:23 GMT

    I remember Indian bowlers like Roger Binny, Mohinder Amarnath, Madan Lal, all below medium pace (regardless of how they are classified on any cricket website). English conditions help "military medium" pacers. So not surprised by Bhuvi's success. Bumrah has been good too, as has Pandya. Only surprise is Yadav, but if he gets as many chances as Yuvi and Dhoni, he will prove that if he was good in Indian conditions, he will be even better in England.

  • Ash on June 12, 2017, 11:08 GMT

    @US_Indian: Very well said. I would like to add Varun Aaron to the list along with Ishanth though. There were times when Aaron and Umesh were competing for one spot and there is no way that Aaron can grab that spot from Umesh. There are several other bowlers in India who never gave a thought for hard work and adaptation and hence remain just bowlers even IPL do not die for. Names like Dinda, Irfan comes to my mind.

  • Naresh on June 12, 2017, 7:50 GMT

    Dont drop Hardik next match, rather Shami in for Kedar. Our batting is stronger with in form batsman. Shami has the ability of taking early wickets. Hardik gives that fielding an extra boost and has taken Rainas slot.

  • darkse3265494 on June 12, 2017, 7:00 GMT

    during the initial powerplay overs it seemed as if bumrah and bhuvi were competing to see who wud be more economical.if the sf pitch is a batting pitch,india can try dropping kedar or hardik for shami.

  •   Cricinfouser on June 12, 2017, 6:53 GMT

    White.Bird, have you watched any of Indias matches? or any of the matches? Bhuvi bowls in 140s and some balls even touch 145k. And Bumrah averages speed is around 143ks with fastest at 147k. Is it not fast enough for you? Which English so called fast bowlers bowls consistantly over 140s? maybe just Wood and thats all. All Indian pace bowlers bowlers have an average bowling speed of 140 or above. And no any other country have that speed. Only one or two able to bowl over 140s even in Australian team. While all 4 Indian bowlers can bowl well over 140s at the moment. Time has changed mate, wake up....

  • sam on June 12, 2017, 5:29 GMT

    People forget Shami has also upped his pace from a 133-137k bowler to a 137-145k bowler. Both he and Bhuvi are the only Indian seamers who have done that (i.e. upping their pace) in last 20 years. For everybody else (except Nehra who never lost his pace in last 18 years) there was a definite pace drop. Shows that both Bhuvi and Shami are hard workers. Shami has been a bit unlucky with his injuries.

  • Ananth on June 12, 2017, 5:25 GMT

    @ALLROUNDCRICKET: You have got it spot on there, Hardik is not yet the ready product, and he definitely is not India's answer to Ben Stokes or Shakib, a front line batsman capable of bowling 10 overs. India should pick 5 bowlers - either Shami or Umesh with both Ashwin and Jadeja. Since Ashwin can bowl pretty much at any stage of an Innings, they wont really miss Pandya's bowling. Also, India's batting strategy is to hold at least 6-7 wickets for the last 10 overs and be in a position of around 200/ 220 for 3 after 40 overs and push to 320-330. But they don't really need those extra 20 runs with 5 front line bowling options. In fact to beat teams like England who bat aggressive and deep, but don't really have the strongest of bowling attacks, they will have to bowl them out and for that, they need to be attacking from both ends and build pressure. That would lead to wickets and India can keep them 270-280.

  • Abdul Ghaffar on June 12, 2017, 5:12 GMT

    Alas! Despite that good performance Bhuvi was not considered to be acknowledged as a Palyer of the match. Very harsh on him indeed!

  • Brishni on June 12, 2017, 5:03 GMT

    Bhuvi was outstanding but got great support from Bumrah and the spin twins. But Hardik disappointed with the ball.

    India got lucky with run outs otherwise their 5th bowler Hardik would have been exposed. Need to get SHami/ UMesh back as they are genuine wicket takers.

    Hardik's Six hitting ability gives extra 15 runs but his lack of wickets and economy concede thos runs in bowling pressurising other bowlers to defend.

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