Jasprit Bumrah, Jos Buttler and the box office draw of Test cricket
Jasprit Bumrah and Jos Buttler were the heroes for India and England on day four. @Getty

How do you delay a Test match headed for certain defeat with five sessions remaining? How do you snap four hours of toil and frustration to transform the shape of the match in minutes? How do you add to the ebb and flow of one of the most enthralling Test series of this era? How do you give fans their money’s worth? How do you prove you belong?

If you’re Jos Buttler and Jasprit Bumrah, you do so by doing what you do best – bat and bowl, respectively.

Buttler and Bumrah, the two heroes for England and India  on a riveting fourth day’s play at Trent Bridge. Exciting, exceptionally skilled cricketers who earned their fame in limited-overs cricket, with performances in Twenty20 cricket in particular the stand-out.

Buttler, called back to Test cricket in May after an 18-month absence during which he played almost exclusively white-ball cricket. Bumrah, he of the awkward round-arm action, elevated to the status of Test cricketer in January, but sidelined with injury for most of the summer and only back in India’s XI for the third Test. There’s something binding these two cricketers.

Buttler, who’s mantra of “f*** it” was picked up by TV cameras during England’s Test win over Pakistan in June, scribbled onto a bat handle, had more to prove at Trent Bridge. For England’s vice-captain, that mantra it is a reminder to himself of what works best, with as a cricketer and individual. As he himself put it, when you nick off, does it really matter?

Since being recalled to England’s Test team in June after a bumper IPL run, Buttler has scored 331 runs in eight innings at an average of 47.29, with Tuesday’s century preceded by two fifties against Pakistan. Scores of 14, 67 and 80* – the last one a match-wining effort to help his country level the series 1-1 – were followed by 0, 1 and 24 versus India in two Tests. These failures, along with some dropped catches, were largely overlooked because England won in Birmingham and at Lord’s, but the middle-order concerns remained.

Buttler’s breezy 39 on day three at Trent Bridge took the score from 128/9 to 161, an innings showcasing his outrageous hitting skills, but when he walked out on day four ahead of the injured Jonny Bairstow, the situation was very different. England were 62/4, set a target of 521, and the man with a maverick approach could not have been in the most positive of mind spaces.

Jos Buttler 100
Jos Buttler cracked Mohammed Shami for three fours in one over to get to his first Test century. @Getty

Ishant Sharma had in the morning reaped the rewards of causing continued problems to the left-handers with this bounce from around the stumps, while Bumrah’s outswinger posed plenty of questions of the right-handers, especially Joe Root and Buttler, who was dropped on 1 by Rishabh Pant.

Was “f*** it’ the way to go?

What followed was an innings of remarkable restraint, laced with the prettiest driving on display from England all series. He had problems against Bumrah, but left well, put away the hit-me deliveries and displayed a tenacity that not everyone could have imagined form the batsman who takes apart bowling attacks in limited-overs cricket. To bat 57.2 overs, face 176 balls and put on 169 with Stokes was no small achievement for Buttler. This innings marked the longest that Buttler has ever batted in a Test, surpassing the 147 balls faced against New Zealand at Leeds in 2015 when he made 73.

It took a beast of delivery to end Buttler’s bravado, and to see Virat Kohli pat him on the back was further recognition of a tremendous effort. England will lose this Test and head to Southampton with plenty of concerns, but Buttler’s innings should give them plenty of satisfaction. The man plucked from the IPL for his first Test match in 18 months has proven the selectors’ hunch correct, and shown that there’s a damn fine Test cricketer behind those movie-star looks.

Bumrah, whom Ravi Shastri describes as the nicest guy off the field and nasty on it, could also subscribed to Buttler’s line of thinking. A Test debut in South Africa in January came after a year’s diet of white-ball cricket, during which he became the leader of India’s attack in ODIs and T20Is, and a nearly as long as a gap from first-class cricket. Doubts lingered as much as anticipation did as to how Bumrah, whom Kohli termed as “aggressive in his mind” on the eve of the Trent Bridge Test, would fare in his first Test since January, coming off an injury lay-off.

Jasprit Bumrah Trent Bridge
Jasprit Bumrah bowled Jonny Bairstow during a terrific spell with the new ball. @Getty

On Tuesday, Bumrah made up for lost time with his second five-wicket haul in his fourth Test – and it proved game-changing. His pace was sharp, his angles created all sorts of problems for England’s right-handers. On that agitated pitch, Bumrah was constantly an irritant while never shying away from cranking up the pace.

It was his devastating burst with the second new ball that ultimately decided this Test, his wickets of Buttler, Bairstow and Chris Woakes seeing England collapse in a hurry. This was high quality pace bowling, the kinds of which Indian fast bowlers rarely produce overseas. A fractured left middle finger had no bearing on Bairstow’s dismissal – it was just a terrific delivery, with shades of Dale Steyn to Brad Haddin at St Georges in 2014.

It is precisely what India’s bowling thrived on in South Africa, and what they sorely lacked at Edgbaston and Lord’s. Don’t expect England to instruct the ground staff at Southampton to prepare a seam-friendly track.