The UP-lad took life out of the Sri Lankan top order with a six-over spell of 4 for 8 to help India to an 81-run (D/L) win.
With the abundance of batting talent India have had at their disposal over the years, the dearth of a frontline fast bowler has always been India biggest bane. The men in blue have had many over the years who promised a lot, only to fizzle out or be mere shadows off themselves. Cut to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and the UP lad has not succumbed to the pressure and has been able hold his own since bursting into the international scene late last year.
India, after their perfect Champions Trophy campaign, in which Bhuvenshwar Kumar too played a vital role, plummeted to two consecutive defeats in the low profile tri-series only to bounce back strongly with two big wins to make it to the final. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, once again was the go-to man for the Indians in those two matches. If Virat Kohli's whirlwind 102-off 82 balls stole the show, Kumar was the one who closed the doors for the hosts West Indies, striking crucial blows to remove game-changers Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Darren Bravo. On Tuesday, against Sri Lanka too, the 23-year-old stepped up and with a stellar performance of 4 for 8 in six overs swung the game massively in India's favour taking the wickets of Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Lahiru Thirimanne.
Since the time he made his international debut against Pakistan, Kumar has made the world sit up and take notice of his rare talent of swinging the ball both ways in helpful conditions and with a brilliant cricketing mind to outfox the batsmen, Kumar has become not just more than a handful bowler but an absolute lethal one. Evidence of it was seen in India when Australia toured the sub-continent and the confirmation came in the ICC Champions Trophy where the swing bowler made the ball dance to his tunes in English conditions.
Against familiar foes Sri Lanka, in a must win match, the lanky pacer once again pushed the opposition on to the back foot early on with his amazing ability of providing early breakthroughs almost every time he has been given the new ball. With an immaculate line and the nerve to pitch it up hoping to extract swing, Kumar suckered even the top-notch international batsmen like Sangakkara and Jayawardene into submission.
Even when his bowling partners went wayward and erratic, Kumar, with a level head, went about his business of bowling with the perfect wrist position and pitch it up for swing and/or land the cherry on its seam allowing the pitch to do the rest. The mark of a good frontline bowler is not only in the wickets he takes or minimum runs he concedes, but it lies in the fact that how well he takes on the responsibility and allows his out-of form or capricious bowling partners to get back into their rhythms.
Kumar did exactly the same and even after seeing Umesh Yadav concede three boundaries after his own fantastic first over, Bhuvi backed himself and bowled with clinical efficiency getting rid of Tharanga for 6. With both in and away movements, the 23-year-old kept the batsmen guessing dismissing Sangakkara the very next ball.
Conceding just 8 runs in his six overs when a team is chasing 178 in 26 overs is not as simple as it sounds, but this is not something new for Kumar. With a probing line, Kumar not only beats the batmen's bat but plays with their psyche as well. In one over, Bhuvi beat the bat of Dinesh Chandimal four times, with two of those deliveries too good even for a nick. He then set up Thirimanne similarly until the southpaw out of desperation tried a rash shot only to perish at the wrong time for his team.
Fittingly, the UP-lad was awarded the Man-of-the-Match award for swinging India into the final.