The best bouncers marry pace and venom with pinpoint accuracy. This wasn't that kind of bouncer. This one was fuelled by rage, frustration, wounded pride; anyone who's played cricket understands those feelings. Whether it's at a dusty municipal playground or the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the angry fast bowler is not to be messed with.
There was something almost heroic about the waywardness of this bouncer. It soared way above Cheteshwar Pujara's head, and he didn't need to duck or sway; he just hunched his shoulders in a perfunctory manner. Behind him, S Sharath was off his feet, right arm at full stretch, and the ball just eluded his glove and ran away for five wides.
You could almost see Vinay Kumar's nostrils flare as he walked back to his mark.
Vinay had been visibly tetchy right through this fifth morning of the Ranji Trophy semi-final between Karnataka and Saurashtra. Not too long before this delivery, he had got one to keep low and crash into Sheldon Jackson's middle stump. He had celebrated that wicket with a rat-a-tat burst of claps, presumably aimed at the Saurashtra dressing room, presumably mocking the visiting team's practice of synchronised clapping to gee their bowlers up.
It was petty, but magnificently so.
The root of Vinay's indignation was a contentious umpiring decision the previous day, off his bowling, when Pujara was on 34. Saurashtra were only just beginning to recover after being reduced to 23 for 3 in their chase of 279. Pujara's wicket was the wicket, and all of Karnataka believed he had edged Vinay to the keeper. Umpire Saiyed Khaled, however, didn't think so.
Like the vast majority of batsmen, Pujara stood his ground. The stump mic picked up a noise as ball passed bat, but it wasn't possible to say conclusively, from watching replays, that he had definitely nicked it. There had been another let-off in the first innings, and on that occasion, it had been pretty clear he had gloved the ball.
Day four was a Sunday, and an unusually large crowd, by domestic-cricket standards, had turned up to support Karnataka. They had turned on Pujara, booing him, chanting "cheater, cheater" when he walked off the field at the session breaks and at stumps.
Pujara and Jackson had gone on to stretch their fourth-wicket stand to 214. When Vinay bowled that misdirected bouncer, Pujara was batting on 119, and those five wides left Saurashtra needing just 18 with six wickets in hand and almost all of day five left to play.
Winning was out of question for Karnataka, but Vinay still had something left to fight for: Pujara's wicket, and a final release for his pent-up emotions.
A couple of overs before the bouncer, Vinay had come close to getting his man.
First Pujara felt for one in the fifth-stump channel, but with soft hands, and the edge rolled away between gully and a diving second slip. Then came a nip-backer, with extra bounce, beating the inside edge of Pujara's defensive bat. Vinay probably knew Pujara hadn't edged it, but he appealed anyway, long and hard and loud, perhaps in the righteous belief that the umpires owed him one. The next ball was a legcutter, gripping the pitch and going past the outside edge as Pujara prodded uncertainly, dying a little as it reached the keeper. Another appeal.
This was the kind of bowling that had made Vinay a bona fide legend in domestic cricket. It had been the driving force behind Karnataka's back-to-back domestic trebles (Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy, Irani Cup) in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
This season had not been quite so rewarding, bringing him only 14 wickets in seven games and an average in the 30s. He was 34 now, and no longer captain. This spell was his last of the season, and he was straining every sinew.
There was more ferocity at the other end, from the younger, quicker Ronit More. He left the left-handed Arpit Vasavada on his backside with one bouncer, and then - with only five runs left to get - got him out fending another to short leg. Karnataka weren't going away with a whimper.
Through it all, Pujara was simply being Pujara, defending with the deadest bat in world cricket, ignoring balls outside off stump, ignoring the bouncers, frustrating the bowlers when they wanted to keep him on strike by manipulating the angle of his bat face and picking up singles to the right of mid-on, flicking off his legs with that elaborate twirl of his wrists, rising up on his toes to slap the short ones through cover point.
One such slap brought Saurashtra's runs required down from 11 to seven, in what turned out to be Vinay's seventh and last over of the morning. A volley of synchronised claps rang out from Saurashtra's dressing room.
This day had begun with Saurashtra needing 55 with seven wickets in hand, but at no point had Karnataka let their intensity drop. This wasn't Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon at the MCG, but Pujara wasn't allowed to relax. This was the Ranji Trophy, and it meant something to everyone at the ground, and the memory of Saiyed Khaled's not-out call lent yet more edge to proceedings.
In a recent chat with ESPNcricinfo, Rahul Dravid had spoken of the need for India players to set an example when they play domestic cricket. "Nothing disappoints me more than when a state coach comes to me and says so-and-so does not play our Ranji matches with seriousness; and he as a senior guy is not setting the right example."
Dravid had spoken glowingly of Pujara in this regard.
"He comes from Australia and plays for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy. For me that is terrific. I know that Pujara is not just going to be playing, he is going to be playing the match properly. That is very important."
All this is true, but perhaps it isn't as much driven by a sense of duty as people think.
For one, it's more natural for Pujara to identify with the Saurashtra team than it is, perhaps, for other big-name players to identify with their state teams. Pujara has played 61 first-class games for Saurashtra, nearly as many after his Test debut (29) as before (32). He's made more first-class hundreds for Saurashtra (20) than he has Test hundreds (18). It's unusual for an India player of his era to play so much domestic cricket, and that's because he doesn't play ODIs or T20Is.
If Pujara remains as much a Saurashtra player as he is an India player, it's simply because he plays for them so often. He's been part of some of their biggest highs, and he's also experienced their heartbreaks. When they played the Ranji final for the first time [since they started to play as Saurashtra, in 1950-51], he missed it sitting on India's ODI bench. In their second final, he put Siddhesh Lad down at slip on 24 , when Mumbai were eight down and the match was in the balance. Lad went on to make 88 in a Mumbai innings win.
And even if playing for Saurashtra wasn't such a big deal for him, it really doesn't matter who he's playing or where when he's at the crease. When Pujara is in Rajkot and can't find decent net bowlers, he practises against anyone who will care to bowl to him, even 12-year-old boys, and he will play them as earnestly as he does Test bowlers, going through all his routines, down to the pre-ball stare at the back of his bat. Why wouldn't he be the same when he's facing Vinay Kumar?
When Pujara bats, words like "focus" and "concentration" lose their air of hard, taxing labour. When he's in form, he doesn't just focus, he becomes engrossed, in an almost childlike way, in the act of watching the ball and playing it. It's utterly out of character for a batsman like that to walk before he's given out, and forego the opportunity to keep batting.
The image of Pujara painted by most commentators and cricket writers, however, is of a good, dutiful man who plays cricket "the right way", whatever that is. It's a lazily drawn but widely held image. The real Pujara came into conflict with this imagined Pujara when he stood his ground and waited for Saiyed Khaled to make his decision. Khaled remained unmoved, and chants of "cheater, cheater" rained down from the stands.
Pujara simply got on with his innings. He gripped his handle tight, held his bat up, and looked at the back of it. He crouched into his stance, ready for the next ball.