There isn’t a better sight to behold during a cricket match than the stumps sent flying in the air. Both spinners and fast bowlers get to compose their symphonies, but the thrill we feel is awesome when a speed merchant gets the purchase in the space of a few seconds of drama that begins with the rhythm of his feet hitting the ground, with the thud we hear as he bangs the ball hard and with the spontaneous music that comes alive as the ball beats the bat and kisses the stumps, sweeping one or all the three slim beauties off the ground for a split second of tango in the air.
Three Zimbabwean batsmen lost their stumps in their encounter with the Indian fast bowlers without any third-party intervention on Monday. All the three instances spiced up the day, but there is always one looking better and sweeter than the others in such breathtaking events. Coming as it did just a day after the humiliation of the Indian bowlers by Elton Chigumbura, the middle stump of the Zimbabwean hard-hitter floating in the air in the 17th over was the most spectacular sight of the day.
Barinder Sran composed the first symphony when he sent the middle stump of Hamilton Masakadza in the air in the fifth over. The other two were scripted by Jasprit Bumrah in a single over, cleaning up Chigumbura and Neville Madziva.
It was the first time India had won a T20 international game by 10 wickets, so the revenge of Dhoni and his boys for their painful defeat in the first match will have a historic tag attached to it, but the more pleasing aspect about the Indian win lies in the way it has been accomplished.
Sran and Dhawal Kulkarni gave the team a good start in the three ODI matches, but when Dhoni issued his nuke threat after the defeat on Saturday, few were convinced about the fire power he had at his disposal. Skeptics could dismiss it as a show of muscle in a battle of unequals, but seldom have we seen an Indian captain on tour thumping his nose at his rivals on the strength of his bowlers. If ever anyone did, that was always on home turf, with an army of slow guys lining up behind him to do their ticks on dustbowls. The fact is that Dhoni spoke with confidence that he would bring in his fast bowlers for the second game — and he did and they have delivered. That’s another piece of Indian history.
None of the Zimbabwean batsmen had a strike rate of 100 on Monday, and it’s the fourth time something like that has happened in T20 history. Peter Moor was the top-scorer, but his 31 runs off 32 balls came at a strike rate of 96.87. What stands out is the way the Indians put Chigumbura on a leash and led him to a peak of despair and dumped him without mercy.
Scoreboard would say it was Bumrah who sent Chigumbura’s middle stump dancing in the air, but the process, as Dhoni would say, started in the 12th over itself with Yuzvendra Chahal welcoming the hero of the first match with five dot balls. That was an admirable show of courage by the small man who was hit for three towering sixes by the Zimbabwean a couple of days ago.
By the time Chigumbura took guard to face the first ball of the 17th over, and lost his plot in the next few seconds, he was a tamed man, having spent 18 inglorious minutes in the middle to score eight runs off 19 deliveries to post a strike rate of 42.10. What a fall for the 150-plus man, the only four of its kind globally in that elite club of guys who have scored 500 or more runs in T20 internationals.
The defeat in the first match hurt Indians’ pride, and we got to watch an awesome show of revenge exacted in a clinical way. Now, the humbling defeat and the nightmare of the flying stumps could put a spring in the steps of the Zimbabweans, especially of Chigumbura. That’s fun in store waiting to explode for us today.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman