Meticulous Bhuvneshwar sends South Africa packing
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