A delivery that South Africa pacer Anrich Nortje bowled clocked 156.22 kmph, the fastest across 13 editions of the Indian Premier League. At that speed, a batsman has around 0.4 seconds to react, the time it takes to blink. In the same spell, against Rajasthan Royals, he touched 155.21 kmph and 154.74 kmph, the second and third fastest in IPL history. The strapping South African is not alone in the pace race. His compatriot, Kagiso Rabada, and England bowler Jofra Archer have been bowling in excess of 150 kmph. Jasprit Bumrah and Lockie Ferguson, too, have revved up their pace and hostility quotients.
The numbers, though, are inadequate to capture the essence of fast bowling. Few thrills in cricket can compare to the sight of a tearaway fast bowler running in to bowl. But T20 had hitherto never truly appreciated genuine pace. Bowlers who were masters of taking the pace off the ball were considered superheroes. For pace, even extreme pace, needs some guile to be effective. There is only a fine margin for error. The IPL batch of 2020 have married pace with discipline and smarts.
Pace can induce terror, collapse, indecision, even fear for life. Even batsmen like Virat Kohli and Steve Smith, who usually seem to have so much time to work in, are suddenly so short of time that they are induced into making last-minute defensive adjustments or mistakes. It can change games in an instant — last Sunday, Kolkata Knight Riders’ Ferguson demolished Sunrisers in a single spell of sustained hostility. Fast bowlers were expected to struggle, considering the heat and slow nature of the surface. But that’s what pure pace can do. It makes a mockery of predictions and patterns.
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