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Top Performer: Bhuvi swings it India's way

By HARISH KOTIAN
March 21, 2021 08:16 IST
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Bhuvneshwar Kumar

IMAGE: Bhuvneshwar Kumar celebrates dismissing Jos Buttler during the fifth T20 International. Photograph: BCCI
 

He missed nearly a year of international cricket because of injury, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar showed he has lost none of his bowling prowess as he bowled India to a T20I series victory over England in Ahmedabad on Saturday.

Bhuvneshwar's last appearance for India was in December 2019 when he played in the T20I against the West Indies before injury saw him pull out midway through the IPL last year.

He made his long-awaited comeback during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament where he took four wickets in as many games and followed it up with four wickets in five games in the Vijay Hazare Trophy last month for Uttar Pradesh.

The pacer has been one of India's most consistent bowlers in the limited overs format before the injury lay-off and it was no surprise when he was called up for the England T20s.

Bhuvi may not possess the express pace of Jasprit Bumrah or Mohammed Shami, but makes up for it with his ability to swing the ball early and tight bowling at the 'death' with his clever change of pace.

In this series, he proved to be the most difficult bowler to get away, conceding runs at an economy rate of 6.38 in the five games -- the best by any bowler in on both sides.

In the series-deciding fifth T20 International, Bhuvi made the new ball count as he dismissed Jason Roy for a duck in the first over to deal England a huge setback in their pursuit of 225.

He kept England on a tight leash at the start, giving away just six runs in his first spell of two overs, including eight dot balls out of 12 bowled.

Jos Buttler and Dawid Malan brought England back into the contest with some determined batting in the middle overs.

While Malan -- the world No 1 batsman in T20Is -- did well to get back among the runs with his free-flowing approach, Buttler kept the boundaries coming at a regular rate as England recovered to 62/1 in six overs.

Leg-spinner Rahul Chahar was smashed for three sixes in the space of seven balls by Buttler.

Malan slammed Thangarasu Natarajan for a six and couple of fours in the 11th over to complete his half-century from 33 balls and Buttler achieved the landmark off 30 balls soon after.

England were right back in the contest on 127/1 in 12 overs with 98 needed from eight overs for victory.

Virat Kohli brought back his best bowler of the series to check England's charge. The experienced seamer once again delivered at a crucial juncture for his team with Buttler's big wicket.

Bhuvi began his second spell with a wide but conceded just two singles off the next four balls to up the asking rate.

The pressure paid off as Buttler decided to make up for it but ended up holing out a simple catch to Hardik Pandya at long-off after scoring 52 from 34 balls.

That proved a decisive moment in England's run-chase as the visitors lost their way after Buttler's exit.

Shardul Thakur -- the highest wicket-taker on the series -- put India in sight of victory with the double strike of Jonny Bairstow (7) and Malan (68 from 46 balls) in his third over as England collapsed in their search for quick runs.

Bhuvi bowled three wides in his final over, but still conceded just seven to finish with remarkable figures of 2/15 in four overs, including 17 dot balls, in a high-scoring contest which saw over 400 runs being scored.

Deservingly Bhuvi was the man of the match. For once a bowler stole the limelight from the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com
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Indian Premier League - 2021

Indian Premier League - 2021