Synopsis: Putting aside the travails of his past season, Sanju Samson resurrects Delhi Daredevils, abetted by JP Duminy’s bling. Mumbai Indians, buoyed again by Krunal Pandya’s frugal bowling, are in the hunt for most part of their chase, guided by Rohit Sharma, but a spate of run outs proves fatal.
There wasn’t much of a forewarning that Sanju Samson was to explode. Delhi Daredevils’s impetus was checked by untimely wickets — they had just lost Shreyas Iyer and Karun Nair. Their enforcer — Quinton de Kock — had floundered in the second over. They were meandering around at just about six an over after 10 overs. Sanju Samson was just about happy, or rather made to feel happy, with singles. Since his last boundary — a tenuous edge past the keeper off his 13th ball — he was solely trading in singles. This he wasn’t doing with a Virat Kohli-like agitative urgency or MS Dhoni-like robust athleticism. He was just leisurely sauntering through, like batsmen used to in ODIs in the last decade, collating than hoarding eleven singles of 13 balls, which in a T20 fixture can be boringly tedious to behold. Sanju’s strike rate was a shade under 100. The Kotla crowd, despite their familiarity with such crawls, seemed fidgety. Maybe, even Sanju must have felt bored of the tedium. He contrived to change it.
A few years ago, batsmen, and batsmen with better-nuanced footwork than Sanju, would have hesitated to skip down the track to Harbhajan. But then Harbhajan isn’t the sly charmer of the past, nor are the modern-day batsmen abashed to resist their instincts. So Sanju sashayed — or rather glided down — to Harbhajan and wristed him over long-on, a stroke of grace in the largely graceless word of brutal, bottom-hand accentuated hitting.
A dot ball later, he unfurled an even more difficult, though not as pretty, stroke. A sweep isn’t the most advisable shot against a well-flighted delivery. The slightest of misjudgment can result in a top-edge or the batsman missing the ball altogether. But Sanju did just that. He preempted the dip perfectly and blunted it past square leg. It was air-borne but Sanju had placed it beyond the vicinity of any fielder. The 14-run over gave Daredevils the thrust. When JP Duminy began his manoeuvre, the 21-year-old reverted to single-gathering mode. But before he departed, he showcased another glimpse of his potential, hefting Mitchell McClenaghan for a six over long-on, dragged from wide outside the off-stump, an incredibly difficult shot to execute off a left-handed seamer bowling from over the stumps.
These are situations Duminy revels in. You take out any of his memorable knock and dissect it, the theme is recurring — his side in mini crisis, wickets falling at the other end, the team needing a flurry of boundaries to rack up a par-score, and Duminy enacting the firefighter role to predictable. In that sense, he is almost Michael Bevan. Only almost, though. He has a Bevan-esque outlook to the game, though not his great manipulative expertise or the inhuman consistency. But then Bevan couldn’t have played some of those outrageous strokes Duminy can whip up any time he is at the crease, like the scooped six off Jasprit Bumrah in the last over. Duminy pre-meditated and hunkered down on his knees. The ball came wider than he had anticipated, but Duminy kept his balance and shuffled his back foot a touch more across to be in the perfect position to meet, and then guide, it over fine-leg. In the end, his 31-ball 49 not out was the difference between a modest 140 and a competitive 164.
Mumbai Indians’ most invaluable find of the season has been the unlikeliest of characters. When they bargained vociferously for Krunal Pandya in the auction and whom they eventually had to shell out Rs 2 crore to acquire, it seemed at first nothing but a sheer whim. But in just four matches, he has validated the price tag. He has not only put his more fancied brother, Hardik, to shade but had made a considerable difference to Mumbai. On Saturday, he was yet again his side’s stingiest bowler, his four overs conceding just 25 runs. In his two previous outings, he had given away 20 and 27 in four overs apiece. More impressively, only two boundaries had been wheedled out of him. Equally prolific has the left-arm spinner been with dot balls, the count now 20 in three innings. He manages this not with a repertoire of mystery balls or fancy variations — he hardly ever turns the ball either — but just with his unerring length and line. To the right-hander, he invariably lands the ball on the leg-stump, fooling him into believing that the ball would go down the leg. But it’s this absolute lack of turn that surprises batsmen. It just goes with the line. They can at best trickle it to the fine-leg or smother it down the ground. The flatter trajectory — as well as the brisk pace — ensure that batsmen can’t quite step down and loft him through the line. Then later, he showcased his batting utillity, a 17-ball blitz that turbo-charged their chase.
Run outs prove fatal
More often than not when Rohit Sharma eats up close to half the overs, he will have guided his side three fourths to a win, more so for Mumbai Indians. He has had a hand in most of Mumbai Indians’ famous nights. Both their wins this season had his stamp on it — and he was the man of the match on both instances. On Saturday, he seemed piloting them home. He certainly would have, but for the mid-innings crawl. Rohit, at his very best or even nearly best, is capable of threading the best-set fields, without much effort. But he somehow, uncharacteristically, got himself into a rut. After beginning with a torrent of boundaries, six in his first 13 balls, he soaked up 30 balls for the next. He was timing the ball alright, but struggled for placement. When Krunal Pandya was going berserk, it was understandable that Rohit slowed himself down. But after the latter was run out, he couldn’t help Mumbai sustain the momentum.
The ball before Pandya exited, Mumbai were cruising, requiring 62 off 45 balls. But in the next 4.2 overs after he got out, Daredevils pulled things back, giving away just 20 runs in 4.2 overs, ejecting Jos Buttler also in that span. It was cocktail of smart bowling by Chris Morris and the two leggies, Imran Tahir and Amit Mishra. besides a rare act of brilliant awareness and presence of mind by Zaheer to run Krunal out. He was the second Mumbai batsmen to be dismissed in that fashion, after opener Parthiv Patel. In the last over, the skipper too was woefully caught short of the crease. But by then, the match had dithered out even from Rohit’s grasp.