The ball that cleaned up Jos Buttler will go down as one of the best inswingers Bhuvneshwar Kumar has ever bowled in his career. Alongside the similar delivery that knocked out AB de Villiers’s stumps in the Johannesburg Test in 2018.
— Doordarshan Sports (@ddsportschannel) July 7, 2022
Often, Bhuvneshwar hits the start of the good length, not too close to the batsman, to get his balls to curve in or out. Like the first ball he bowled last night, a lovely outswinger, to harass Jason Roy. Or the inswinger to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar for his first duck in domestic cricket. This one to Buttler was a tad fuller, almost on a drivable length. That was one of the deviations from the Bhuvneshwar norm.
The ball was also pushed out at release, towards the off side. Good swing bowlers do that. James Anderson explained it best once about what he does with his fingers at release depending on whether he wants inswing or outswing.
“If anything I am thinking about the finger [at the release]. with the inswinger, I can push it wide of off stump with the middle finger and hopefully it will come in later. With the outswing, what I do with the (index) finger is I try to push the ball into the stumps and then it swings away later.” So with the inswing, the middle finger comes last off the ball and the index finger does that late departure for the outswing.
Bhuvneshwar doesn’t always do that. That bit about pushing out or in, that is. This time around he did that.
The ball started to curve away from the line of release, towards the off side. Buttler was on a leg-stump guard, preferring to stay away from the line.
In the past, against Bhuvneshwar he has tried both – moving in across the stumps early or staying adjacent. Until March 2021, it had worked just fine for Buttler as he hadn’t been dismissed by Bhuvneshwar in any form of cricket in over hundred deliveries.
That day in March, a couple of years ago, incidentally during yet another India comeback after injury for Bhuvneshwar, Buttler would shuffle across to try to work it away to the on side. But the ball that landed on off and middle kept bending back in to rap him on the pad in front of leg stump. Trapped lbw. Two games later, he would take him out with a slower one.
Last year’s IPL, he had removed Buttler with a crafty outswinger in the first over that was poked to the wicketkeeper, though it turned out to be a no-ball. That first spell was also acknowledged by Buttler as a tough test to get through. So, off late, Bhuvneshwar has troubled Buttler with the new ball, and that too in the first over. And with both types of swing – in and out.
It’s in this context the last game played out. This time around, with Buttler staying adjacent to the line, Bhuvneshwar’s inswinger started from a fuller length. It deviated out and then swung in alarmingly to upset the most prized possession of Buttler at the crease: his balance.
When that goes awry, Buttler’s game is reduced to all hands. He has great hands to use that cricket terminology and does adjust more often than not. And so he tried this time too. But the ball kept bending in to thwart his hands and crashed into the stumps.
The delivery brought up memories of one of Bhuvneshwar’s best deliveries in Test cricket.
2018, Johannesburg. Like with the Buttler ball last night, that one too landed a tad fuller than his normal. Unlike Buttler, de Villiers strode out forward. Unlike Buttler, he had more aggressive intent to drive through the line. Near the end, when Buttler would have known he was in trouble and hoped his hands would get him out of jail, de Villiers wasn’t suffering much self doubts.
But essentially the ball was the same. It was also pushed out, towards the off, before it began its dramatic inward journey.
De Villiers went for his flamboyant drive and that’s when the alarm bells would have rung. The ball kept tilting in to move past the flashing blade and clattered the stumps.
De Villiers in a Test, Buttler in a T20 – not bad scalps for Bhuvneshwar who is trying his damndest best to get into the T20 team for the world cup.