At the end of the thrilling Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Mumbai Indians IPL game that was decided in the super over, the talk was about Ishan Kishan’s missed hundred and the improvisational genius of AB de Villiers.
However, one outstanding bowling effort escaped the attention of both fans and pundits. In a match that saw 402 runs, 23 fours, and 26 sixes, RCB all-rounder Washington Sundar’s effort of 4-0-12-1 was a masterclass in effective spin bowling in the power-play.
He conceded no boundary, bowled 13 dot balls, and created unbearable pressure. In rare praise for Washington on social media, India coach Ravi Shastri tweeted: “The best performance in the IPL so far.”
Here’s how it went.
Historically, spinners have troubled Rohit Sharma in the first six overs. In the past three editions of the IPL, they have got him out six times. Maybe this was what prompted Virat Kohli to bring on Washington in the second over.
Washington’s 1st over (2nd of innings): Rohit miscues pull
Washington knew exactly what Rohit likes in a spinner and what he doesn’t. He likes flight and width. Washington gave him neither. Rohit likes to sashay down the track, but Washington’s brisk pace, touching the high 90s, kept the MI captain glued to the crease. And he also knew that nothing frustrates Rohit more than being tied down by a spinner, which he managed to do super efficiently.
The first ball spun back into him—it’s a misconception that successful T20 spinners don’t turn the ball. Rohit stared suspiciously at the pitch. Then Washington began mixing up the lengths.
The next ball landed on a spinner’s proper good length area. But because the first ball had spun, Rohit waited for the ball and played it on the back foot. The third was short of good length, to which he came forward and drove confidently.
Rohit sensed the next ball would be shorter in length. He sensed an outlet for the piled-up pressure. The pull, after all, is his percentage stroke. The ball indeed was shorter in length, only that it was not short enough to be pulled, came quicker than he had expected, and landed on off and middle, denying him the width that facilitates free swing of the bat.
Rohit failed to time the ball; it didn’t clear the boundary, and he was caught at deep mid-wicket.
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Washington’s figures: 1-0-2-1
Washington’s 2nd over (4th of innings): The strangle job
To Ishan Kishan, he went flat and kept the ball on the stumps. The leg side was sufficiently cushioned with fielders inside the ring, which meant even singles were hard to get. It was not until the fourth ball, when the mid-on fielder was pushed back, that Kishan managed to smuggle a single.
Washington’s ploy was different against de Kock, in that he shed his defensiveness and went on the attack. Knowing the South African’s penchant for cutting, he pulled his length back a trifle, tempting him to go deep into the crease and cut late. He was nearly sucked into the trap—edging twice when trying to force the cut.
Bowling figures: 2-0-3-1
Washington’s 3rd over (6th of innings): Simply Unhittable
The last over of the powerplay is when batsmen, especially when chasing a steep target, go berserk. But they ran out of ideas against Washington. When they tried to manufacture a shot, Washington routinely out-thought them.
On the second ball of the over, de Kock tried to create room and go inside-out, one of his trusted release strokes, but Washington darted it so fast into the middle stump that the shot had to be aborted at the last moment.
Bowling figures: 3-0-7-1
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Washington’s 4th over: (10th of innings): Pandya locked up
Hardik Pandya relishes hitting off-spinners over cow corner. He goes deep into the crease, gets under the ball and heaves it over mid-wicket. But just like he induced doubts in Rohit’s mind with the one that spun back sharply, Washington made the second ball grip the surface and bounce.
Here, he was over-spinning the ball, and straightaway Pandya turned cautious and was happy rotating the strike. That was the best strategy against Washington — tip and run singles. It happened to be his most expensive over of the day. Five runs!
Bowling figures: 4-0-12-1
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