Match Analysis

When Jasprit Bumrah met Andre Russell

Sparks flew, and ESPNcricinfo experts Ian Bishop and Daniel Vettori were left in awe

Deivarayan Muthu
When Andre Russell came out to bat on Monday night, Kolkata Knight Riders were 123 for 3 in the 14th over. Russell immediately set to work, hitting a second-ball six off legspinner M Ashwin.
As if on cue, Mumbai Indians brought Jasprit Bumrah back into the attack for the 15th over. He'd only bowled one over so far in the innings, and had clearly been held back for this particular confrontation.
Bumrah's first ball to Russell was an inch-perfect inswinging yorker, with his exaggerated inward angle making it even more lethal. Russell somehow got his toes out of the way and jammed it out. The next ball wasn't a proper bouncer; instead it was a hard-length delivery angling into off stump at around chest height. It was neither cuttable nor pullable. There was no width for Russell to be able to free his arms. He still swung hard, and ended up flapping a catch to Kieron Pollard to long-on.
It was the fourth time in nine IPL innings that Bumrah had dismissed Russell, while conceding just 56 off 44 balls. The latest dismissal was the perfect execution of a 1-2 plan, and it left ESPNcricinfo expert Daniel Vettori hugely impressed.
"I think that yorker just started everything," Vettori said on the show T20 Time:Out. "To come back after bowling just one over, sort of ten overs since then, to hit that yorker at that pace, it surprised Russell, so that meant that he actually wasn't in control of the over.
"Russell didn't know what the next ball was going to be, because he executed that yorker so well, and then he went to length, and he went to hard length - maybe he was sitting on the bouncer, but I think hard length was such a great choice, and Russell was going to go hard after it and he got him out, and that just started it. It was the catalyst for him to keep going and going and going."
Keep going was what Bumrah did: his last three overs brought him five wickets for the cost of a mere five runs. His overall figures of 4-1-10-5 were his best in all T20 cricket. From the point of his reintroduction into the attack, Knight Riders lost six wickets for 29 runs in their last six overs.
Reflecting on the Russell dismissal on the same show, Ian Bishop, the former West Indies quick, made particular note of how well Bumrah had directed his short-of-a-length ball.
"A lot of it was skill," Bishop said. "Let's revisit a conversation we had after the [Knight Riders-Lucknow Super Giants] game [...] about the height of the bouncer that is needed, and we were referring to Shreyas Iyer, and why it is harder in this format, just as an example, for Shreyas to play the short ball with confidence.
"It's because you have to go at it, and a lot of them don't need to be head height; they can be chest height as it was to Russell, and because of the nature of the game, you have to go at it - it's T20, right? And it's hard length, and uncomfortable."
Should Russell have played out Bumrah and lined up the other Mumbai bowlers? Bishop suggested he could have, citing the example of Chris Gayle.
"For Russell, I can't criticise him too much because he went at the short ball the other night [against Super Giants] and did it well, but I still will take the Chris Gayle example, where Chris Gayle wasn't a great player of the short ball, but he'd play out certain bowlers and then tee off after others," Bishop said. "It's still something that I'd like to see with Russell, where he can balance who he goes after and when he goes after just a little bit better."
Three balls after removing Russell, Bumrah let rip a head-high bouncer to Nitish Rana, another KKR batter who is vulnerable to the short ball. Rana was caught between playing and ducking for a split-second before doing a bit of both and gloving the ball behind to Ishan Kishan.
Bumrah then switched ends and delivered a triple-wicket maiden in which he also bounced out Sheldon Jackson, Pat Cummins and Sunil Narine.
"Yeah, he bowled like a man inspired, really," Bishop said of Bumrah. "He was the difference - 87 for 1 after 10 [overs], and then Jasprit Bumrah happened in his last three overs, bowling over number 15, 18 and 20 at the back end after bowling one in the powerplay. [...] He didn't see the slower ball gripping from the other bowlers, so he decided to go short and use the bigger square boundaries.
"But that ball to Nitish Rana, that was special, and again we've talked about the use of the short ball to certain players - Nitish Rana, certainly one with Shreyas Iyer who's been struggling with that - and it was interesting, the Russell dismissal, because Russell played the short ball with aplomb in the last game against LSG, putting a couple in the stands, but we also talked about the fact that every West Indian who plays against Russell, fast bowler that is, looks to go short, so tonight it worked, and Bumrah happened, he was brilliant."
Bumrah happened again in the final over. Rinku Singh had farmed the strike to try and give the innings a final flourish. However, Bumrah served up a delightful cocktail of short balls and yorkers to give up just one run and limit KKR to 165 for 9.
Pat Cummins and the other Knight Riders bowlers then took a leaf from Bumrah's playbook and pounded Mumbai's batters with hard lengths as Bumrah's extraordinary effort went in vain. However, he was adjudged the Player of the Match and also finished as ESPNcricinfo's MVP, with a total impact of 135.14, nearly 53 points clear of his nearest rival.
There seems to be no bottom to the abyss Mumbai are hurtling into this season, but the future appears thrilling. Imagine this MVP bowling in tandem with a fit-again Jofra Archer, who was IPL 2020's MVP by a distance. Good luck to the batters facing them next season.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo