Synopsis: Li’l Big Mc steals the show with Mach T20 ton while destructive Dhoni completes the demolition before Chennai bowlers pull the chain on Warner Express with sleight of hand
Li’l Big Mc
You couldn’t help but sympathize with Trent Boult. He had just delivered the perfect riposte to his compatriot’s ingenuity. The previous delivery was a full-toss on middle-stump that Brendon McCullum had ramped over fine-leg for a six. Here Boult had shortened his length and gone for his throat while following the CSK opener as he moved across his stumps. Still, McCullum hit it for four, producing a shot that would have made anyone plying their trade on Dhobi Ghat very proud—the ball soaring over the wicket-keeper’s head. It was akin to a lady adjusting her pallu or a WWE wrestler pulling of a ‘suplex’ move.
He had done it repeatedly over the last couple of months. Here at Eden Gardens, it was the World Cup all over again as McCullum the Mighty was back to making a mockery of them. The thing with McCullum is he’s always coming at you. And there’s no place to hide. While he kept jumping out of his crease and launching the Hyderabad bowlers into orbit, there was no respite for them even when they tried pitching it short. For, the Kiwi skipper was ready, waiting to hook and pull those over the ropes.
McCullum wasn’t waiting for the death overs to switch to ‘ingenious’ mode, as he lapped a full-toss from Ishant Sharma, as early as in the 12th over, for six over the keeper’s head.
With Baz, he doesn’t just hit sixes. He smashes them into the stands as if to say ‘go, fetch it’. Sunrisers kept fetching them all evening in Chennai, as McCullum finished with nine sixes and his first IPL century since the one that sent everyone, including Shah Rukh Khan into a tizzy, seven years ago.
Dhoni can often come across in the middle-overs of a T20 game as a dawdler, whiling away time, poking singles and twos, and not looking incisive. But that’s when he’s at his most dangerous, for like a hunter he’s only setting up his prey. It seemed he had given Sunrisers some breathing space while cruising to 21 off 17 deliveries. Then on came Karn Sharma for his final over. And off went Dhoni. Three mighty sixes off five deliveries followed. Suddenly, McCullum wasn’t the only one pummelling Sunrisers into submission. It was double-trouble, and with a 29-ball 53, the skipper had ensured Chennai would be the first team to cross 200 this season.
This is an all-important IPL for David Warner. By now, the pint-sized dynamite has already proven to the world the mass-destruction he can produce with willow in hand. But somehow captaincy has always seemed a step too steep. The problem-child reputation that he’s garnered for himself hasn’t helped and questions are perennially raised over his temperament. A month-and-a-half at the helm of an IPL franchise could change that scenario.
To his credit, he showed the gumption to rein in his naturally bombastic tendencies and allow Shikhar Dhawan to take centre-stage at the start of Sunrisers’ innings. But once Dhawan departed, he launched an assault of his own. Till he was there, his team remained in the game. He looked set to hit top-gear with a four and six off consecutive deliveries, bringing up a half-century, but then holed out attempting a glory-shot to bring a virtual end to the match.
Sleight of hand
If the Sunrisers’ bowling attack is all about pace, CSK’s about change of pace. Dale Steyn might have missed out on Saturday but in Trent Boult and Ishant Sharma, Hyderabad still possessed some fire and brimstone in their arsenal. Against McCullum, though the quicker they bowled, the further the ball travelled, and it was only Ravi Bopara who managed to pull things back by denying the CSK batsmen any momentum on the ball.
Chennai though had Mohit Sharma, who despite his relative inexperience has the knack to befuddle batsmen at all levels with his array of slower-ones, bowled from both the front and back of his hand. And both Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul had no clue what hit them — maybe because it arrived much later than they expected it to — and fell prey to Sharma’s wily trickery. Dhawan sliced Sharma to point while Rahul was clean-bowled. Dwayne Bravo then followed suit by removing Ravi Bopara and Karn Sharma with his own sleight of hand to cap off a perfect night for the former champions.