Since the 2012 IPL season,in which he took seven wickets in seven matches for Kings XI Punjab,Harmeet Singh Bansal hadnt played a single cricket match of note. He hadnt played first class cricket for his state,Punjab,since December 2011,and 50-over cricket since even further back,February 2009.
Since the last IPL season,cricket fans had begun calling him Harmeet Singh Bansal rather than just Harmeet Singh,in order to differentiate him from the left-arm spinner of the same name,who had been one of the leading lights in Indias victorious U-19 World Cup team. Bansals brief ascent into something approaching mass consciousness when he had been an important performer for Deccan Chargers when they had won the 2009 IPL title seemed like a long time away.
On Tuesday,Bansal was back in the Kings XI Punjab eleven,thanks to the fact that they had chosen to replace Azhar Mahmood,his fellow purveyor of medium-paced cutters,with a specialist batsman in Luke Pomersbach.
In Bansals first over,Virender Sehwag smacked him for a boundary down the ground and a six over deep midwicket. Sehwag had made an unbeaten 95 in Delhi Daredevils last match. In his second over,Bansal shortened his length,and bowled a succession of slower deliveries. Sehwag faced five balls of the over. The first four included a leg bye,a slower bouncer that hit him gently on the shoulder and a niggly wide down the leg side. Last ball of that over,Sehwag looked to go hard at the ball,misconnected,and was caught low at extra cover. Delhi were now 45 for three in seven overs.
Over the next six overs,David Warner and Manprit Juneja took Delhis score to 82 for three,with the former lashing Piyush Chawla for a six and two fours in one over. Harmeet returned. The third ball of this over,Delhis 14th,saw Juneja find fine leg with an airy pull. Another wide and two balls later,a leg cutter gripped the Ferozeshah Kotla wicket; Kedar Jadhav,trying to go over the top,skied it to extra cover.
It took another 19 balls bowled by Harmeet and spinners Bharghav Bhatt and David Hussey before the ball crossed the boundary ropes,Warner pulling Praveen Kumar for four. Next ball,however,Warner was bowled,a yorker squeezing under his bat as he tried to give himself room and slap it away. Daredevils were 103 for seven; they would finish with 120 for seven.
It proved way short of adequate,as Punjab won by five wickets,with three overs remaining. They lost Adam Gilchrist early,but Mandeep Singh and Luke Pomersbach counterattacked,smacking seven boundaries between them in the second and third overs of the innings,sent down by left-arm seamers Ashish Nehra and Irfan Pathan,and putting on 44 in just 25 balls.
Pomersbach and Mandeep were out off successive deliveries,the former bowled by left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe and the latter run out by a direct hit from Warner,to raise a frisson of excitement among the Delhi crowd. But Punjabs asking rate,by then,had dipped to under five an over. They lost two more wickets,and even played out a maiden from van der Merwe,but David Miller steered them home with an unbeaten 39-ball 34.