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Thursday, December 03, 2020

Crumbs of comfort: CSK get something to cheer with facile win over Kohli’s RCB

When pace was a curse for Bangalore and the lack of it a blessing for Chennai.

Written by Sandip G | Updated: October 26, 2020 3:41:21 pm
iplCSK are languishing at the bottom of the points table. (Twitter/CSK)

The match turned out to be a balm that fleetingly soothed the pain of an almost-certain premature tournament exit for Chennai Super Kings. “A perfect match”, as captain MS Dhoni would later reflect. It was also the perfect conditions for their bowlers, and the most imperfect for their adversaries, Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Lack of pace, a blessing

If Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, among the batting royalty of this generation, are striking the ball at a rate less than 120 in a T20 game, something should be wrong with the world. They faced 79 deliveries, scored only 89 runs, found the rope thrice and cleared it once. In a normal world, de Villiers is capable of smacking a hundred in 39 deliveries. Kohli would not have been too far behind.

But it was not a normal world. It was not a normal T20 hit-through-the-line surface. The IPL caravan is a month and week old, and the sun-dried strips are progressively slowing down, especially in Dubai that has a history of producing slow turners. There was not much turn — in that case, batting would have been slave labour — but the slowness was enough to make even the best of batsmen struggle for runs. It was not a struggle, though. Kohli and de Villiers batted as intelligently as they would on a slow, low surface — the bouncer lobbed gently over the back of the batsman, and bounced again before reaching Dhoni — but the big difference in the end was Chennai’s bowlers.

The surface seemed designed straight from their book of dreams. The innate slowness of their attack was a blessing than a curse. And they took the pace off the ball even more. The fastest the Bangalore batsmen faced in the entire innings was 138.2 kmph, bowled by Sam Curran who took three wickets. It’s the ball’s pace when it lands, it would be even slower by the time it reached the batsmen. He bowled at an average speed of 132, while pace-bowling colleagues Monu Kumar and Deepak Chahar ranged from 125-130. They hardly cared for a slower ball, for it would not have made any marked difference.

The spinners were equally sharp in harnessing the best of conditions. Mitchell Santner varied his pace and length beautifully while Ravindra Jadeja probed a flatter trajectory, compressing them for width to loft or room to cut. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir’s over-spun deliveries created an illusion of uneven bounce. Beating his compatriot de Villiers a couple of times with extra bounce, he made him look mortal. Tahir also made Kohli mistime half a dozen of his drives. And when Kohli mistimes a drive, it’s a tell-tale sign that the surface is on the slower side.

Shrewd as ever, Dhoni got the drift of the game and set aggressive fields to prevent cheap singles. That Kohli and de Villiers still managed to smuggle singles and twos, besides kicking along at a rate of over six runs an over, only defined their adaptability. In these circumstances, on such a sluggish surface and against a bunch of bowlers born to maximise it. For their defeat, they can only blame the disposition of their own bowling unit.

Pace, a curse

If the pitch was too difficult for even Kohli and de Villiers, how did Chennai’s batsmen manage to bat so freely? There was no pace on the surface, but there was pace in the fast bowlers who operated against them. Navdeep Saini’s slowest delivery clocked 142 – his fastest was a fraction under 150 – while Chris Morris was consistently 145 or thereabouts. Without swing on offer, Mohammed Siraj was listless. And none of them are reputed to take the pace off the ball. Both Morris and Siraj were duly targeted, and ended up conceding 55 runs in 5.4 overs. RCB’s spinners, barring the wonderful Yuzvendra Chahal, turned out to be uninfluential too.

Making the most of the modest target and bowling was Ruturaj Gaikwad, who furnished a good account of his crisp strokeplay. He drove and cut splendidly while Ambati Rayudu executed his sweeps fluently. Their 67-run alliance was enough to tighten CSK’s grip on the match. Bangalore had revelled in their pace prowess throughout the tournament. Here, it was their undoing.

Brief Scores: CSK 150/ 2 (Gaikwad 65*, Rayudu 39) beat RCB 145/ 6 (Kohli 50, de Villiers 39, Curran 3-19, Chahar 2-31) by 8 wickets.

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