World Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult have lived up to the old cricketing adage ‘Fast Bowlers Hunt In Pairs’ for the Mumbai Indians - the most successful IPL franchise in the history of the coveted tournament. The pair bagged a total of 52 wickets between them in the 2020 IPL in the UAE and were instrumental in the Mumbai Indians winning their fifth title and the second in a row. However, come the 18th of June and the contrasting fast bowlers will find themselves leading the attack of their respective teams as rivals when India clash with New Zealand in the final of the World Test Championship in Southampton.
We look at what they did together for the Mumbai Indians in the UAE last year and what they will bring to the table in a completely different format in the mega final starting this Friday.
Performance in IPL 2020
Boult and Bumrah were the most successful bowling pair of IPL 2020 taking a combined 52 wickets between them in the tournament. While Bumrah returned with an average of 14.96 and strike rate of 13.3, Boult conceded 18.28 runs per wicket and took closer to 14 balls to dismiss a batsman. They complemented each other beautifully - one a right-arm fast and yorker specialist while the other a left-arm swing bowler with the natural ability to get the ball into the right-hander.
While Boult went for the wickets in the powerplay, Bumrah was more restrictive and the go-to bowler at the death. Bumrah had a slow and indifferent start to the tournament picking 7 wickets and conceded at an economy rate of 8.9 in the first 5 matches. Boult took charge and led the MI attack picking 8 wickets also striking with the new ball within the powerplay in three of these 5 matches.
Bumrah’s fortunes changed when he was given the new ball - from thereon he was in a different league and the best bowler of the competition. Combined, the Bumrah-Boult pair took 4 or more wickets in a match on 7 occasions in the tournament and significantly MI won all these 7 encounters! The pair also stood out for the quality of wickets they took in the tournament - 42 of the 52 wickets they bagged were of the opposition top-middle order - ie as high as 80%. Boult showed a special ability of big-match temperament producing a Player of the Match performance in the final.
A Great International Start For Bumrah
Bumrah and Boult are amongst the best in the world in limited overs’ cricket but their record for their respective countries in the longest format of the game is not bad either.
The Indian pacer has had a great start to his Test career and has bagged 83 wickets in 19 Tests. Along with a knack of picking wickets he is also very restrictive as his economy rate of 2.70 indicates - combining the two and Bumrah’s bowling average of 22.1 and strike rate of 49 are amongst the best of all-time. Still early days, but a fine start nonetheless!
Boult, on the other hand, is a veteran of 72 matches in which he has picked 287 wickets at an average of 27.85 and strike rate of 55.9.
The question arises who will be the more threatening bowler in Southampton? Who has contributed more in wins in the recent past and what are the unique strengths of the two bowlers?
Contribution In Wins
We take the time period since Bumrah made his Test debut - against South Africa in Cape Town in January, 2018. Boult has returned with 87 wickets in 20 matches at an average of 26.22 and strike rate of 52.3 in this time-frame. Bumrah is ahead of Boult both in terms of runs conceded per wicket and balls delivered per dismissal in this time frame.
85% of Boult’s wickets (74 of 87) in this time-frame have come when New Zealand have gone on to win the match - that is a very high percentage and a direct indicator of how significant Boult’s performances have been for his team during the inaugural edition of the WTC.
Boult has an average of 22.36 and strike rate of 44.4 with 3 fifers during this period.
In comparison, although Bumrah has a better average and strike rate of 14.22 and 32.7 in wins for India, overall, only 58% of his wickets (48 of 83) have resulted in a win for India which suggests that India has lost (in South Africa and England) even after Bumrah has picked heaps of wickets. However, that is more to do with a poor batting display than anything else. Bumrah has taken as many as 5 fifers in almost half the number of wins for his country as compared to Boult in this time-frame.
Contrasting Bowling Styles & Top-Middle Order Wickets
Bumrah is a hit the deck, bowl on a good length type of a bowler with the ability to get the ball back in - from over the wicket to the right-hander and round the wicket to the left-hander - this explains a high percentage of his lbw and bowled dismissals (43 of 83).
Boult, on the other hand is a swing bowler with his natural ability being to get the new cherry back into the right-hander which explains a large percentage of his ‘bowled’ dismissals (16 of the 46 dismissals). He also lets the ball go with the angle across the right-hander, inducing the edge and getting the slips into play.
In terms of quality of wickets, both Bumrah and Boult have exactly the same share of wickets of the top 6 - 63%. Where Boult has done better though is in getting cheap opposition wickets, ie dismissing the batsmen before they have contributed significantly to the total. As many as 61 of his wickets are of batsmen before they have reached 20 (70%). The corresponding percentage for Bumrah is 63%.
Boult Has More Experience But Bumrah Impressed in Nottingham
Bumrah has played just 3 matches in England but played a pivotal role with the ball in the victory at Nottingham in 2018 returning with 7 wickets in the match including five in the second. What makes Bumrah dangerous against the right-handers is also the angle with which he delivers, almost giving an illusion that the ball will come in but then it holds its line, takes the edge and gets the slip into play. Often he does get it to nip back sharply, trapping them lbw or bowled.
Boult has played 5 Tests in England and returned with 27 wickets at 22.4 and a strike rate of 49.1. He returned with 5-57 in the first innings at Leeds in 2013 but his more impressive performance came at Lord’s in 2015 where he returned with 9 in the match - his ability to bring the ball back in causing the maximum trouble to the England batsmen. He returned with six in the match in New Zealand’s series win at Birmingham and was clinical in polishing the lower-order and tail.
The New Zealand quick also has more experience of playing in similar conditions back home whereas Bumrah has just played two Tests in New Zealand.
Support Acts in WTC
What is most interesting is the role played by both Bumrah and Boult for their respective countries in the WTC. While their returns have been impressive, they have not been at their best and were not the standout bowlers for their teams in the tournament. Mohammed Shami has been India’s best fast bowler in the WTC while Tim Southee has the highest impact for New Zealand.
Bumrah and Boult have both taken 34 wickets in 9 matches each in the WTC with the Indian with a better average and strike rate. However, Bumrah’s best performance (in terms of wickets) came on the tour to the Caribbean against a weak West Indies unit. His highest impact performance though came in the first innings of the MCG Test in 2020 when he bagged 4 wickets to skittle Australia for 195 leading the way for a historic Indian fightback.
Boult, on the other hand failed in the MCG Test against Australia taking one solitary wicket across two innings but raised his game in the big series against India bagging four each in an innings in Wellington and Christchurch.
The WTC Final provides the two MI loyalists, not at their lethal best lately in Test cricket, to make a big impact with their contrasting styles and give a high impact performance in one of the most important matches of their careers. If the conditions are overcast they will favour Boult who can get the ball to swing but a pacey wicket with good bounce may just aid the Indian speedster more.