Chennai Super Kings (CSK) beat Mumbai Indians (MI) in the opening match of IPL 2020 by 5 wickets and with 4 balls to spare.
For much of last year, Ambati Rayudu seemed a spent force – ragged, grumpy and aghast at himself and the world at large. The World Cup snub, the 3D-rant on Twitter and an underwhelming IPL seemed tell-tale signs of imminent departure. Only that, as he has proved on numerous seemingly no-return junctures in his career, he can defy perceptions and judgements.
From invisibility, he sprung to Chennai Super Kings’ rescue with a vintage knock, whipped up with the freedom that had him earmarked for international repute since his teenage days.
Rayudu batted with withering enterprise and sparkling clarity — walking in at 7 for 2, in pursuit of Mumbai Indians’ 162. From the very beginning, he looked assured and authoritative, calmly taking his time and gently shifting gears, taking chances but winning them. From 10 off 12 deliveries, CSK’s hopes drifting, he galloped to 45 off 28 deliveries.
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The flashpoint was a Jasprit Bumrah over, the last of the Powerplay. The fast bowler over-stepped and the resultant free hit was creamed over backward point, Rayudu’s hands flashing like a butcher’s blade. The follow-up was an angry short ball that he carted over wide long-on.
It was to be the turning point, as Rayudu cut a swathe through the Mumbai attack, walloping his 26th T20 half-century with a boundary off Bumrah. It was violent yet silken batting — and Bumrah’s crestfallen expression summed up the day for Mumbai. With Suresh Raina’s defection, Rayudu’s renaissance could not have been timelier.
Supporting Rayudu like a big brother was Faf du Plessis, who composed one of his typical support acts. Where Rayudu swivel-pulled, Faf du Plessis nudged behind square; where du Plessis nudged to the boundary, Rayudu drove over cover. Rayudu’s departure — a stunning caught and bowled by Rahul Chahar — did fray nerves, but du Plessis made sure of the win, which was hatched by Piyush Chawla.
Slow charms of Piyush Chawla
Among the raft of leg-spinners around — a much sought-after stock in T20s these days — Chawla is undisputedly the least glamourous. No mystery or mystique, no flash or flamboyance, neither Shane Warne nor Anil Kumble, he seems almost an apology for a leg-spinner, someone who accidentally picked up the most romanticised art in the bowling manual.
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But as he demonstrated on the inaugural day of the IPL, Chawla could be unspectacularly resourceful, and that leg-spin is large enough a spectrum to accommodate all sorts. He’s not a moments bowler — he would not leave you beguiled with a piece of immortal art — but rather a man of forgotten moments. Beyond this match, no one would graphically remember how Rohit Sharma perished in the first innings.
There was nothing worth remembering — a slow, tossed-up delivery that the Mumbai Indians captain mistimed, or perhaps he was too lazy to fully stretch his arms, to mid-off. Even if one dissects the delivery with cutting-edge forensics, one is unlikely to stumble on anything earth-shattering.
But the sheer audacity of a leg-spinner to toss the ball up in his first over, in the Powerplay, with the Mumbai openers on a rampage, was applause-worthy. It embodied everything that is Chawla. He first tricks batsmen with his courage.
Perhaps not, he first lays the charm offensive with that harmless smile. Then he begins to work over the batsmen with clever changes of pace – speeds ranging from slow to slower – angles, trajectories and arm speed. He fundamentally works with two variations, the wrong-un and the leg-break that’s more like a top-spinner. But most of all, he knows when to deploy them and does so with immaculate accuracy.
On progressively slow pitches, his slowness become incredibly difficult to find boundaries off, especially down the ground. Timing becomes difficult, placement goes awry and the scoring rate is stymied.
His first two-over spell conceded only six runs and speed-braked the score that was hurtling in excess of 10 an over. MS Dhoni next recalled him just when Hardik Pandya had begun to tee off. Chawla arrested the moment with a five-run over, and in the next, the hitherto listless Ravindra Jadeja consumed both batsmen, caught in the deep by Faf du Plessis. That he leaked just one boundary — a monstrous six by Kieron Pollard — underlined the value of Chawla’s unglamorous tricks and the reason Chennai Super Kings shelled out Rs 6.75 crore for his signature.
Brief Scores: Mumbai Indians 162 for 9 (Saurabh Tiwary 42, Quinton de Kock 33; Deepak Chahar 2/32, Lungi Ngidi 3/38) lost to Chennai Super Kings 166 for 5 in 19.2 ovs (Ambati Rayudu 71, Faf du Plessis 58; James Pattinson 1/27) by 5 wickets (4 balls to spare)
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