Bhuvneshwar Kumar took his second five-wicket haul in Tests on Saturday and finished with career-best figures of 6/82 as England (319) scraped to a 24-run first innings lead against India. In what has proved to be a dream start to the five-match series, the young Indian seamer has shown the maturity needed to make the most of seaming conditions in England. (Scorecard)
While many doubted India's ability to bowl England out twice, Bhuvneshwar has shown early signs that he is not only capable of delivering for his team but is also worthy of leading the attack. England's first innings at Lord's was an ideal example as the 24-year-old claimed wickets at crucial stages to keep his side - defending a first innings score of 295 - on top. (Also read: Bowling attack key to succes, says Dravid)
A slight green cover on Friday was exploited by Bhuvneshwar as he first dismissed a struggling Alastair Cook and then made the other opener - Sam Robson - his next victim. That he bowled a nagging line just outside off with the ball swinging outwards marginally was enough for both batsmen to edge the ball back.
Just when England looked to repair the early damage, the bowler struck with the prized wicket of Ian Bell whose edge was lapped up in the slips. The biggest wicket though was when Bhuvneshwar outfoxed centurion Gary Ballance in the dying minutes of Day two's play to end his resistance on 110. He returned a day later to complete a five-wicket haul when he bowled Ben Stokes and then got Stuart Broad's edge.
None of his six strikes were magical or awe-inspiring. In each of his successes though, there was the element of raw skill and the sheer beauty of sticking to the basics. Bhuvneshwar was consistent and it paid him rich dividends. "We learnt from the English bowling on day one and we saw that they bowled too short at times. So we watched and learnt what lengths to bowl and adjusted out bowling accordingly," he had said at the end of Friday's play. (Read more)
While watching England bowl may have helped Bhuvneshwar on the field, he has also made a mark with the bat. After two back-to-back half-centuries in the Trent Bridge Test, he hit a vital 36 for the visitors on the first day (Thursday) at Lord's. Many admirers have already started billing him as an all-rounder and the young stalwart is basking in the glory. "I am enjoying batting in England as well. It always gives you pleasure when you score runs in Test cricket. Coach Duncan Fletcher talks about how important runs are from the number 9, 10 and 11 batsmen, so I have been working hard in the nets to help the team," he said.
In a long five-match tour, Bhuvneshwar has already shown the perfect consistency and would now have to keep it going to give Team India the fighting edge against England.