The ups, downs, and everything in between from the second week of IPL 10.
Sam Living Up To His Billing
If you compiled a highlight reel of England involvement in this year’s IPL, Sam Billings might not feature – after including Mills’ slower ball bouncer, Buttler’s scoop, and Stokes’ save (see below) there might not be room. But his consistency – he has been dismissed for less than 20 just once in five innings, with a high score of 55 – makes him possibly the most impressive of all the England players so far, and in the absence of Quinton de Kock, his continued efforts will be vital to the Daredevils campaign.
Stokes And Samson’s Supermen
A spectacular boundary effort from Ben Stokes looked set to be the piece of fielding of the tournament – until Delhi Daredevils’ Sanju Samson surpassed him with a similar but superior save the very next day! Both prevented sixes, but while Stokes’ attempt saw him start on one leg and juggle the ball, before gathering it and putting it back in play, Samson’s included a sprint and a full-length dive, while the casual nature of the throw back in behind him showed how he was in complete control the whole time. Stokes’ shouldn’t mind much though; his save came in a win, and for his work with ball in hand – Stokes took 3-18 – he was given the man-of-the-match award.
With ball and bat in hand, Sunil Narine started awfully in KKR’s game against KXIP. Having already dropped a simple chance, he’d conceded seven wides before bowling a legal delivery, firing twice down the leg side. However, the spinner instantly gathered himself and didn’t concede a single boundary for the rest of his four overs, finishing with 1-19. Then in the chase, in the absence of Chris Lynn, Narine was surprisingly chosen as the man to partner Gautam Gambhir at the top of the order. It was a move pioneered by the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash, and supported by his fifth-place on the PSL six-hitters list, but it was a risk nonetheless, and when the West Indian swung and missed at four of his first six balls, it seemed it was not paying off. Again however, Narine recovered, smashing six of his remaining 12 balls to or over the rope. His 37 off 18 set the platform for KKR to stroll to a target of 171, and his rollercoaster of a day sealed the man-of-the-match award.
A Day To Remember
Those who chose to spend their Easter Monday bank holiday watching an IPL double header witnessed two pulsating, thrilling games of cricket, perhaps the two best of the tournament so far. In the first match, contributions throughout Delhi Daredevils’ top order set Kolkata Knight Riders a stiff target of 169, and at 21-3 it seemed they wouldn’t get close. But Manish Pandey dropped anchor, and Yusuf Pathan blitzed, and by the start of the 16th over, the game had swung completely, with KKR needing barely more than a run a ball with six wickets in hand. From then on, it was an exhibition of death bowling and fielding – see Samson’s superman – and after 27 consecutive boundary-less balls, KKR needed eight off three. But Manish Pandey kept his calm, smashed one for six, and stroked another for a couple to finish it off.
The second, somehow, was even better, with twists, turns, plots, subplots, and some spectacular individual performances. Batting first, David Warner overcame a slow start – he didn’t hit a boundary until his 18th ball – to craft an unbeaten 70 that carried SRH to 159-6. Then, it was the Manan Vohra show. Without him, KXIP wouldn’t have been close – the rest of their batsman combined made 49 off 69 balls. His domination was most in evidence against Rashid Khan, against whom he faced 14 balls and plundered 37. Take that out, and Rashid would have figures of 2-5. Had it ended in victory, his 95 off 50 may have been the greatest IPL innings. But Bhuvneshwar Kumar would strike the decisive blow, taking two wickets in three balls, the second that of Vohra, LBW to a dipping full-toss, to finish with 5-19. Kings XI still came close, but, with six needed off two balls, and Ishant Sharma facing, a Kaul yorker shattered the off-stump, and all those watching could finally draw breath.
The Double Hat-Trick
On one day in one tournament, three wickets fell in three balls twice. It could only be the IPL. Badree’s was the more impressive, coming as it did early in the innings and in an ultimately unsuccessful defence of a small total – RCB’s 142 – when no big hitting should have been needed. He saved the best of the lot for the hat-trick ball itself, a well-disguised googly which bamboozled Rohit Sharma, snuck through the gap, and disturbed the stumps.
Gujarat Lions’ Andrew Tye was the day’s other hat-trick taker. He also saved the best for last, as a fast yorker demolished Shardul Thakur’s stumps. His eventual figures of 5-17 are the best of the tournament so far, with the economy especially impressive for someone bowling in the death overs, and his efforts were match-winning, as RPS’s 171 was easily gunned down.
Gayle might not even have been playing in this game, and he has de Villiers’ and Badree’s niggles to thank that he was. And as he approached a great landmark – he started the game on 9,997 T20 runs; no-one has made 10,000 – it seemed clear why. There was none of the assured hitting of the Universe Boss of old, just plays and misses, wafts, and squirted singles. But, as late as the fourth over, he edged his third run down to third man and was a man reinvigorated, the weight of a milestone lifted. The very next ball he faced went for six, and a flurry followed. Then, the defining moment. Having just pummelled Jadeja for two fours and a six, he sliced a full-toss towards long-off. It still seemed it would have enough to clear the ropes, but Brendon McCullum, one of the few who can challenge Gayle’s pedigree in this format, intervened, sprinting and flying full-length, plucking it from the air and rolling in the turf. It would have been the catch of the tournament, were the rim of Baz’s floppy hat a cm shorter. Alas, this brushed the rope, as was spotted on replays, six runs were awarded, and Gayle would turn his miniature into an epic, finishing on 77 off 38 balls, and setting the platform for RCB’s 213-2, a match-winning total, and the largest of the tournament so far.