One bounced, the other put them to play and they lost in a typically flamboyant display – India’s selectors will be well pleased as they make plans for bigger challenges ahead
In this day and age of myriad sponsor awards, one for the smoothest bowling action seems like an obvious miss. If one is instituted, Prasidh Krishna will be the pioneer to make it happen. As is it for a place in India’s Asia Cup squad, which will be announced on Monday in New Delhi, a squad that will most likely also be India’s World Cup squad.
After making an impressive first impression on Friday on his return after a year out, the injury-riddled, repaired and realigned Prasidh was back again on Sunday with his old vigor and guts. His 2 for 32 in the series opener served as a perfect prelude to the chin-up music he brought on a better deck and under sunny skies today. He set pace, fumbled balls and caught batters on the jump, all without looking like he was fooling around.
Unlike Jasprit Bumrah, who develops momentum only in his final steps before delivery, Prasidh is like a locomotive that comes in, almost robotically, before easing into a silky smooth delivery and breaking free. It’s elegant, a tidy power that should make batsmen feel like they’ve been warming up for hours elsewhere before turning up.
Paul Sterling must have felt that way when he was choked by a ripper. Imagine knowing what’s coming and what you want to do and yet not being able to have any control over what comes next. That’s how Sterling must have felt when he was all tangled up and hit with pace as a meek top pull landed in Arshdeep Singh’s hands at fine leg.
It was a short shoulder-length ball that Stirling made the mistake of trying to bring from outside off. A second of indecisiveness set Ireland back early in a big chase. Their powerplay, their most complete batsman among the most experienced of both XIs, was settled for a four-ball duck.
Lorcan Tucker, who replaced Stirling, also got an early taste of that fire when he was late in the pull, the ball leaving the seam to mid-off for a three-ball duck in the same over. It was a huge blow to Ireland’s ambitions to upset India. It was also a glaring endorsement of Prasidh’s pace and form on his return from injury.
The rest of Prasidh’s night on the field wasn’t as exciting as his first burst, but it was enough to tick a box full of markers that the selectors and team management would be looking for. Prasidh effortlessly picked up his pace in his second over, clocking over 140 regularly, and also narrowly missed out on a third wicket when Andy Balbirnie attempted a short-jumping run off Ruturaj Gaikwad at extra cover.
Balbirnie and Mark Adair would later rise to the challenge on Prasidh, sniffing him over the ropes for three sixes between them in his third and fourth overs – the 15th and 19th of the innings respectively – but by then the required percentage had already escape. Prasidh finished with 2 for 29 from his four overs and, to go with his two scalps from Friday, must have been satisfied overall.
The other key piece in India’s fast bowling puzzle, Bumrah, had a quieter outing. But there were shades of his mastery in his first delivery when he beat Balbirnie with a ripper that bent and deflected ever so slightly to beat a feeble forward push. In the same over, there was also poor inside movement. Even though he got away for five wides, he kept the batsmen honest as they knew he was whistling it both ways.
Bumrah mixed these variations with a medium bouncer, slower length balls later with balls swinging towards the hills and finger breakers that had balls shuffling. More importantly, Bumrah walked the talk as, as he had said before the series, at no stage did he look like he was holding back. And he spoke along the same lines in today’s post-match presentation, saying he wouldn’t let the huge expectations get to him.
“I feel good. Today, I could run and bowl a bit faster,” Bumrah said. “If you play with the baggage of expectation, you’re going to be under pressure. You have to keep those expectations aside. You don’t live up to yourself 100% if you play with so many expectations. You have to learn to manage expectations and keep it aside.
“I’m glad to be back and couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Bumrah’s first strike came in the 17th over, which started with Ireland needing 62 off 24. Prime territory for the batters to go after bowling you’d think, but he went for just four runs in the over, without conceding a boundary . In fact, he didn’t concede one all day, and ended the game with a particularly poor finish, which ended with a slower ball that beat Josh Little to complete a maiden wicket, figures of 4-1-15-2 in the bag . The smile at the end, four goodbyes, was that of a satisfied man who knows he is back where he belongs.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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