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Match Analysis

Bumrah and Prasidh's promising comebacks good news for India's World Cup plans

Both fast bowlers were returning after long injury layoffs and took two wickets apiece against Ireland

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
18-Aug-2023
Walk. Trot. Jog. Whang. And just like that Jasprit Bumrah was back.
Returning after having back surgery for a stress fracture, and playing for the first time in almost 11 months, Bumrah made a successful comeback in the first T20I against Ireland in Malahide. There was no discernible change in his bowling action, no signs of discomfort, and he gradually amped up his pace too.
A two-ball clip shared by the BCCI from a practice session ahead of the series contained promising signs. The first of those balls was a vicious bouncer, the other a searing yorker. The grunt when Bumrah released indicated he wasn't holding anything back, and he confirmed as much on the eve of the first T20I.
But ask any cricketer and they will tell you that bowling in a match is vastly different from bowling in the nets. So everyone waited for Friday. And when Bumrah, captaining India for the first time in T20Is, won the toss and opted to bowl under overcast skies, Indian fans and selectors would have celebrated alike. Remember, there's an ODI World Cup beginning in less than 50 days. And an Asia Cup in 12.
Bumrah's first delivery was an anticlimactic loosener. A full one on the pads that Andy Balbirnie flicked over square leg for four. But Balbirnie had a shock awaiting him.
The speed gun clocked Bumrah's second ball at just 129kph. But the combination of angle, seam and swing meant it came in sharply to take Balbirnie's inside edge and crash into off stump. Bumrah spread his arms in celebration and followed up with a fist pump while Balbirnie stared at the pitch in disbelief.
As his first over progressed, Bumrah increased his pace. His fourth ball was an inswinging yorker at 135kph. Lorcan Tucker got his bat down in time to keep it out.
It was already as good a start as Bumrah, India and Indian fans would have realistically hoped for. But it was about to get better. Lorcan Tucker moved across to a length ball pitching well outside off to scoop it over the wicketkeeper. He only managed to lob it to Sanju Samson's left for an easy catch.
He started his second over bowling in mid-130kph range and touched 141 with his third ball which reared towards Harry Tector. He followed that with a slower one at 117kph. This time, there were no wickets, though.
"So many session I did at the NCA, and played a lot of practice games, that it didn't feel like I missed out on a lot, or was doing something new," Bumrah said after the match. "The weather was a little helpful as well. Luckily we won the toss and there was some help in the beginning."
He didn't feel any nerves either. "Because when you are captaining, you are not thinking about yourself, you are thinking about others," he said. "Probably that sometimes works in your favour that you are looking after everyone and your performance takes care of itself."
Like Bumrah, another fast bowler important to India's World Cup plans, Prasidh Krishna, was also making a comeback from back surgery. On T20I debut, he also started with a loosener: a wide down leg side.
The similarities didn't end there. Prasidh also took a wicket in his first over as Tector ramped one to short third.
Unlike Bumrah, Prasidh hit speeds in the mid-130s straightaway and his fifth ball was 145kph (90mph). He consistently hit the middle of the pitch and extracted high bounce - a skill that had made him India's middle-overs enforcer in ODIs before his injury. One such delivery earned him his second wicket as he cramped an advancing George Dockrell for room and had him caught at cover.
"I have been with this group for a long time now, so didn't really feel much like a debut," Prasidh, who has played 14 ODIs, said later. "The wind was blowing. There was cold out there. So it was tough for the bowlers to get warmed up and get into the rhythm straightaway. But it was good. I enjoyed coming out here."
After bowling two overs each in their first spells, Bumrah and Prasidh returned towards the back end of the innings. By then, Ireland, having consolidated from 31 for 5 to 80 for 6, were looking for quick runs.
Bumrah conceded 13 in his third over and Prasidh 15 in his fourth. But Bumrah ensured he finished strong. Bowling the 19th over of the innings, he varied his pace and length and gave away just one run to finish with 2 for 24. Prasidh ended with 2 for 32.
"I could have bowled better, definitely," Prasidh said. "Could have finished off a little better. But then as a team, we had set out a plan to do a few things and I think we were there for the most part of it. For me, personally, it's great to be running in, bowling out there for the country."
India, though, will be wary of getting ahead of themselves. Bumrah's last two attempts at a comeback were not successful. Still, with the selectors expected to announce the Asia Cup squad early next week, Bumrah and Prasidh's comebacks were promising.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo