What’s Brumbrella? England’s latest Ashes innovation that foxed Australia


Just an hour before lunch on the rain-interrupted third day, the Ben Stokes era enriched the modern lexicon of cricket further. After Bazball, Bazbait, Nighthawk, a new word was coined—the Brumbrella. Originally used to signify a large pitch cover to protect the ground, it can be used to describe the absurd field Stokes and Ollie Robinson set to end the 321-ball resistance of Usman Khawaja.

As bizarre as the field was, the means justified the end. Khawaja’s exit precipitated a collapse and England mustered a seven-run lead, before spells of rain stifled England’s charge, as they ended the day on 28 for 2 with a lead of 35 runs.

The Australian opener, as he was on the second day, was an immovable force of defiance, blunting the swing and seam of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, quelling the fire of Ollie Robinson and the biting spin of Moeen Ali. Gradually, he was bolting the door on England’s persistence. None of the conventional patterns or well-worn methods worked; none of the old allies, swing and swing, seemed to reciprocate. As if Stokes requires an excuse to embrace the outlandish, he began his endeavour to rip apart the manual of setting fields in Test, and conjured what could be called the most curious field you would see in Test cricket.

The England captain has been fiddling with the field for sometime. At the 110th over, he and Broad conspired to pack the leg-side field for Cummins. There was a leg-gully, square leg, deepish wide mid-on, deep square leg and fine leg. A short-leg too was installed, before he moved the fielder to silly point and Stokes himself crouched at short leg. The design was to bowl short and into the body. A medium-pace body-line?

From the other end, Robison was probing wide lines to both batsmen. He began the 111th over, to Khawaja, with a gully and three fielders clustered in the cover, the one in the middle closer to him than the two men on his flanks. Khawaja was unruffled and remained in his invincible bubble. So in his next over, Robinson packed the on-side, four men forming a human chain from short square leg to short mid-on, in a crooked line of 15-20 paces from the bat.

Setting the trap

The intention of the field seemed to test not his technical aptitude or temperament but the ability to be not puzzled, to remain undistracted amidst the funkiness. Or maybe, it was a carefully-woven ruse. From the corner of his eyes, he could see the vast expanses behind the point. All these catches were a mere prop, he was not to spoon them a catch. The real deal was to coax Khawaja, who scored just 15 runs in the morning, to do something silly, something against the wind. You could see those little movements of his body and bat that he was oiling his cuts and slashes, in case of slight width. For once, he judged the length of Robinson’s yorker a fraction late, but somehow managed to avert the danger. For the next ball, he took on the leg-side to the off-side and pulled in other two. It seemed like a mirror image, as though Stokes and Robinson were a pair of collaborating Impressionist artists.


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Australia’s Usman Khawaja is bowled out by England’s Ollie Robinson (Reuters)


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Australia’s Usman Khawaja walks as England’s Ollie Robinson celebrates after taking his wicket (Reuters)

This last move did frazzle Khawaja. He could not see through the set-up, he could not fathom the logic or idea. He looked dazzled. Confused minds breed confused thoughts. He shimmied down the track to his next ball, almost before Robinson hit the delivery stride. He maneuvered some room for himself and opened the face of his bat to drive inside-out. But he missed Robinson’s ball angling in at the stumps from round the stumps.

Maybe, the field was all a gimmick, maybe it was genuine smarts, whatever be it, a most vital wicket was bargained. Australia could all only 14 more runs, where once it seemed like they would eke out a lead. More pages were added to Stokes’s fielding manual—Broad bowling with a short-leg and silly point against Pat Cummins. The silly point would later snaffle Scott Boland, looking to defend a short ball.

Rain plays spoilsport

A riveting day was thus set up, though rain washed away most of the day. But between two passages of rain, under smoldering skies. Australia’s pacemen whipped up hostility. Before the first spell of rain, England’s openers crunched 26 runs in 6.5 overs. Upon resumption, the mood swung under the dark ominous skies. Boland’s second ball, off the eighth over, swung demonically past Zak Crawley’s intended cover drive. A ball later, he bent one back into his pads. So did the ball after. Suddenly you could sense stiffness in the mind and body of England’s openers.

The next over, he beat Duckett with a ball that held the line off the seam. Three balls later, he bait him into biting at a full, wide ball that flew off Duckett’s hard-handed edge to gully, where the tall Cameron Green grabbed a blinder. Three balls on, Boland hit the inch-perfect line and length and purchased just enough movement to brush the outside edge of Crawley, who kept muttering about the bad light. Only eight more balls would be bowled in the day, but how England survived those balls without further damage is a mystery, It was a wild phase, wherein Boland hit Joe Root’s pads twice and Pat Cummins futilely reviewed a caught behind of Root. Then, the rain began to pound, and the day would be called off. Brief though the day was, there was no shortage of drama and debates. A day of umbrellas and Brumbrella.


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