Of all the formats of cricket, wickets in Twenty20 have the least correlation with a bowler's intent to pick up those wickets; they usually come through containment, and, at times, through funny shots. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is now the first Indian to have a five-for in each format, but he knows better than to look at just the wickets. It is the economy rate of a run a ball that matters more - this in turn brings wickets, sometimes for other bowlers but, like on Sunday evening, for Bhuvneshwar himself.
Bhuvneshwar is more satisfied that he bowled in a way that suffocated the batsmen enough to play those low-percentage shots - in the case of Chris Morris, first ball of his innings - and brought him three wickets in an over, leaving him on the verge of a hat-trick.
"Taking wickets means a lot when you play for your country," Bhuvneshwar Kumar said. "Doesn't matter if you take five wickets or how many as long as you're winning matches for your country. That's what matters, and taking five-fors in every format feels good. I want to keep doing it as long as possible."
Bhuvneshwar's experience as compared to South Africa's fast bowlers shone through. Even as South Africa continued to try to bounce India out, Bhuvneshwar kept bowling short of a length, stump to stump, and mixed it up with knuckle balls. "The important thing is how you mix up your deliveries according to the wicket," Bhuvneshwar said. "For instance, today we bowled a lot of slower balls. It was a part of our strategy on this wicket, to do away with pace and make it difficult for the batsmen to score. Apart from line and length, it's important to understand how you want to mix your deliveries. Today it was about bowling slower, not giving the batsmen the pace to work with."
Reeza Hendricks, who scored 70 off 50 balls, spoke about how difficult it was to score off Bhuvneshwar. "He was just consistent in his areas, which was pretty much giving us nothing to score off," Hnedricks said. "So we had to be happy with ones and twos at that time."
Bhuvneshwar conceded just two boundaries, easily the best effort over four overs in the match on a small outfield and a flat pitch. The key was to quickly judge what lengths were to be bowled and how much pace variation was required in those conditions. Just like India's batsmen, Bhuvneshwar is somebody who doesn't go in with pre-conceived plans, and has the ability to adjust to the pitch's response to his bowling.
"Today, for instance, while we were batting, we had a certain idea of the kind of wicket we would be bowling on," Bhuvneshwar said in response to a query on whether the India's bowlers decide what plans they should use even when they are batting. "But the whole picture begins to emerge only after you've bowled. Because it depends on the bowlers. Look at their bowlers, they're of a different height, have different skill sets, and the pitch responds differently to them. So you get an idea, but, as I said, the whole thing emerges only after you've bowled a few balls. For instance, if I've bowled the first over, I can communicate with the rest of the bowlers what's happening on the wicket, like that..."
So how long does it take for Bhuvneshwar to suss the conditions out? "Depends. Sometimes it takes just one ball. Sometimes you get hammered for four overs and still don't know what the ideal length and pace for that pitch was."