Adrenalin rush of McCullum
No other top-order batsman in the past few decades has had a greater adrenalin rush than Brendon McCullum as he has repeatedly showed with his mad dashes down the track in limited-overs cricket. Krish Srikkanth was restless but this is something else. And Shahid Afridi isn’t a top order guy. McCullum, it seems, is ahead of even ECB: he wants a 6-over game. Saturday was no exception. There he was a blur of whirring arms and high back lift, with not a thought about a escape route plan, ignoring the possibility that Lungi Ngidi might not succumb to the (dumb) thought of a bowling a seam-up length ball. Especially when he took off pretty early in the piece. Ngidi actually didn’t have any option but to slip in a slower cutter. The miscue off the top edge wouldn’t have surprised many.
Many batsman go down the track: not many do it like McCullum. He actually leaps off the crease, two feet in the air as he skips down the track. It leaves him with such limited time to adjust. By the time he lands, he is already so committed that he can’t pull out of it. Don’t bother digging up Youtube videos to show instances where he has; of course, he has. That’s why people turn up to watch him. Even when he gets out, it’s quite a spectacle. Like watching a kid deliberately crash a toy car.
AB de Villiers’ urges to manipulate the ball in unpopular angles is a thrill to watch. But sometimes, even he plays the card a tad too early. Like with Harbhajan Singh. The choice of reverse paddle wasn’t out of place; South Africans like Kallis, Amla and de Villiers himself have done it against Harbhajan even in Tests. But he pulled out the shot so early that Harbhajan had all the time to pause and adjust to send the ball slower and turn it down the leg side for MS Dhoni to do his thing.
Sandwiched between those dismissals was the Virat Kohli vs Ravindra Jadeja moment. The ball shot rapidly out of Jadeja’s hands, and it fell pretty full, and close to Kohli, who for some reason chose to try cutting the ball past the slip fielder. In the past, in the nets and as a team-mate, Kohli has uttered the B-word in celebration quite a few times when the opposing batsman would make a similar mistake in shot selection. Jadeja had his arms up as he saw the cut shot being cued up, but that’s where it ended: it didn’t extend into any celebration. Both Kohli and he had a look at each other, and that was that. As it turned out, Jadeja wasn’t in mood for any celebration for even his two other wickets.
Dhoni bosses Chahal
It came down to MS Dhoni vs Yuzvendra Chahal at the end of the chase, after M Ashwin had produced a good spell to slow it down. Not that there was any real chance — Bangalore had already followed their poor batting with equally poor fielding, and Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo needed just 22 runs from 18 balls. Still, it was interesting to see what Chahal would come up against Dhoni, whose presence behind the stumps had helped Chahal while playing for India.
The full well-outside-off ball came first up, something Chahal usually bowls in end overs, but this one strayed wide. Then came his other regular staple: a slower delivery, again full outside off. Dhoni plundered it with a muscular cross-batted wallop over long-on. Chahal slipped in the front-of-the-hand quick one and managed to get it pretty full as well. It was quick enough to beat the heave, hit the pad, and would have plausibly fetched him an lbw verdict if he hadn’t overstepped the front line.
There was just one idea in the Chahal repertoire: a slowish leg break on a length, possibly good enough for others but not against Dhoni. He just waited for the ball to reach him and blasted it from the crease over long-off – no one need to doubt about his back. Just one final TV moment remained: it was Kohli at the boundary, first running in, then back-pedalling before attempting a jump as the ball winked over him. Game over.