Updated: May 1, 2018 10:26:45 am
Watson gets the (inside) edge
Shane Watson’s front pad has a long-running affair with the cricket ball. The two are mutually attracted to each other. The script unfolded almost perfectly on the first ball of the match as Trent Boult’s heat-seeking in-swinger targeted the burly Australian’s front pad. Umpire C Shamshuddin declined to raise the finger, prompting Delhi Daredevils skipper to take the punt on a review so early in the match. After going back and forth between several frames, TV umpire Nandan found a tiny inside edge before the ball made contact with the pad. The clinching evidence was not conclusive, to say the least, and the ball tracking system later returned three reds.
Watson, who had been having a relatively lean time of it after a hundred earlier in the tournament, perhaps needed a stroke of luck like this. For what followed over the next hour or so was an exhibition of pure power hitting. Opening partner Faf du Plessis was plodding along at the other end, scoring at a run a ball. It was solely Watson who was responsible for a run rate that reached over 10 runs an over for the Chennai Super Kings at one stage.
He started with a few orthodox shots as he used the pace and angle of the deliveries to find the boundary. But the arrival of Liam Plunkett in the fifth over prompted Watson to flick the switch. The England paceman, for some reason, tried to test the batsman with the short ball. It didn’t work out, to put it mildly. Watson, fed on such stuff from an early age Down Under, pulled the first one into the crowd beyond cow corner. When the bowler over-corrected and bowled full on the pads next ball, it was flicked nonchalantly for six. Another six, this time by Du Plessis off the final ball of the over, meant Plunkett’s first six deliveries went for 20 runs. The Englishman never recovered as his three overs went for 35 runs. He suffered two more sixes in his next over as Watson feasted on two full balls, one hit straight and the other over square-leg.
Avesh Khan had impressed with his pace and attitude in the previous match and had continued in the same vein here, keeping du Plessis in check in his first over, which went for only a single. But he got a taste of the Watson power. A short ball rose to chest-height, but a top edge nevertheless landed way beyond the long-on boundary.
Watson’s struggles with left-arm spinners are no secret, so it was a surprise to see the Daredevils not include Shahbaz Nadeem. Leg-spinner Rahul Tewatia’s long hop went the distance, via a pull shot, while a full delivery was slog-swept for maximum. Vijay Shankar conceded two more boundaries, before Amit Mishra, who had another good outing, had Watson caught in the deep. But by that time, the Australian had set the stage for what was to follow.
MSD serves another reminder
Mark Twain once said in response to an inaccurate news story of his demise: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
MS Dhoni seems to be saying something similar throughout this tournament to those who have been all too keen to write his cricketing obituary. IPL 2018 is seeing the MSD of old as the big hits are back with fear in the hearts of the bowlers.
His modus operandi is the same — taking a few balls to get himself in, rotating strike and getting the blood flowing in his limbs. But once he got going with a six over long-off off Mishra, there was no looking back.
The next over saw Dhoni in full flow, that too against Boult, Delhi chief enforcer. A short ball has hammered with disdain over deep mid-wicket, a full ball was met with that famous bottom-handed jab that sends the ball soaring over wide long-on, followed by a top-edged pull for four. The over went for 21, and the writing was on the wall for the Daredevils.
Avesh Khan came on to bowl the 19th over and was doing a pretty good job of it conceding just five runs off the five balls. But the final delivery was a full toss which was muscled deep into the stands on the on-side.
In the final over, Boult went for the yorkers but missed his length repeatedly, falling into Dhoni’s arc. A full toss went over deep midwicket and a full delivery was smashed past the bowler for a boundary. With Ambati Rayudu playing his customary useful knock, it was enough to put the Daredevils in deep trouble. They needed their top order to fire, but only one of them did.
The Chennai bowling has not been its strongest suit this season, but the inclusion of South African paceman Lungi Ngidi provided an added dimension. But it was the relatively unknown Kerala pacer K Asif who gave the first two breakthroughs as delhi tried to keep up with the run rate. They were reduced to 74/4 after nine overs and the matter seemed done and dusted.
Only Rishabh Pant seemed up for the fight. He kept finding the boundary, sometimes with ungainly shots. He would often land on all fours on the pitch after playing a shot, as he largely targeted the on-side.
Vijay Shankar, batting at the other end for most of Pant’s innings, seemed a strokeless wonder for most of his knock, putting all the more pressure on the Delhi lad. With the asking rate reaching 18 and 19, it was only a matter of time before it all unravelled.
Pant’s exit prompted Vijay Shankar to use the long handle and the Tamil Nadu all-rounder did find some big hits towards the end. But apart from helping the batsman reach a largely inconsequential half-century, they only helped in reducing the margin of defeat. Why Shankar didn’t go for the big shots when the asking rate was a bit more realistic, will remain a mystery.
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