Updated: October 16, 2020 3:18:04 pm
Knuckle balls, cross-seam deliveries, slower bouncers and back-of-the-hand stuff. These are some of the skills pacemen have had to learn to contain marauding batsmen in limited-overs cricket. Twenty20 cricket is generally not good for a fast bowler’s ego, as they are not allowed to dictate terms.
But the 2020 Indian Premier League is witnessing a refreshing change, and Wednesday’s match between Delhi Capitals and Rajasthan Royals was a shining example. The fast bowlers didn’t resort to change of pace or line to deceive the batsmen after being hit for a four or six. They stuck to their strengths and, if anything, tried to bowl quicker and targeting the stumps. Jofra Archer, Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada showed that pace is still one of the most precious currencies in cricket, no matter the length of the game.
If one looks at the teams struggling at this moment – such as Chennai Super Kings, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab – they lack the extra dimension in their attack that extreme pace provides.
Plan A, plan B…pace
Consider this: Nortje’s first delivery of the night, bowled at 148 kmph, is lofted by Jos Buttler over long-on for a six. Far from being disheartened, the South African cranked his speed further, to 152.3 and 152.1 kmph, on the next two balls.
The subsequent two deliveries showcased the audacity of T20 batting as Buttler ramped them for boundaries, the second one the fastest ball (156.22kmph) in IPL history. In the usual scenario, any bowler would be at his wit’s end. But Nortje stuck to what he knows best and got rewarded for it. A 155.4 kmph ball, straight and full at the stumps, beat the Englishman’s attempted hit down the ground and shattered the stumps.
There were a few more 150+ kmph deliveries in Nortje’s next over, and even Ben Stokes and Steve Smith – who would have faced such extreme pace – knew better than to take any chances.
Nortje has bowled the five fastest deliveries in this edition, topping at 156.22 km per hour on Wednesday.
But Nortje’s most crucial contribution was still to come.
With Royals needing 29 runs in three overs, the South African speedster held his nerve and castled Robin Uthappa with a yorker at the base of middle-and-leg stump, bowled at 149.7 kmph as the batsman tried to charge at the pacer. Nortje closed out his spell with a 151.6 kmph delivery as the 18th over went for just four runs, including a bye, as momentum changed hands. Nortje’s effect on the game was far more than his figures of 2/33 would suggest.
Rabada gave fewer runs and had perfectly respectable figures of 1/28 in four overs, but looked distinctly pedestrian in comparison to his compatriot.
Dale Steyn held the record for the paciest delivery in the IPL before this season (154.4 kmph), and is understandably delighted with the success his tribe is enjoying and the way they are making batsmen squirm and hop.
“KG, Archer, Ana I’d have paid to watch them live tonight. Fast bowling is strong, and this competition is being dominated by these beasts!” the legend, presently on RCB’s books, tweeted after Wednesday’s game.
Archer lightning quick too
The fast bowling exhibition had started earlier in the evening with Archer making the Delhi Capitals batsmen dance to his tunes. He bowled Prithvi Shaw with one that jagged back off the first ball of the match, and reached a speed of 148 kmph with his seemingly lazy action, allied with the movement he got. A seasoned professional like Ajinkya Rahane was made to look all at sea in the third over before attempting an ill-advised and ungainly pull to be caught at mid-on. Archer reached 151 kmph in that over. It may have been advisable to give Archer another over at that stage, but skipper Smith held him back for the death. There too he kept the speed gun interested, while getting dangerman Marcus Stoinis with his last ball. Archer’s spell read 3/19 and he didn’t deserve to be on the losing side in the end.
150kmph-plus, the new 140 ?
According to the IPL’s official website, Nortje and Archer have combined to bowl 19 of the 20 fastest deliveries this season. Pat Cummins is the third man in the top 20, having bowled one at 151.7 kmph. In total, after Wednesday’s game, the 150 kmph mark has been reached 34 times.
A line of thought says that as the pitches get slower in the second half of the tournament, spinners will get more joy, But those who are quicker through the air may still have enough to take the surface out of the equation.
Apart from DC and RR, other teams doing well have at least one express bowler. Mumbai Indians have James Pattinson, along with Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult, while Royal Challengers Bangalore have the impressive Navdeep Saini in their ranks and Cummins is flying the flag for Kolkata Knight Riders.
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