Umesh proves a point
Umesh Yadav has had fairly little white-ball cricket (precisely six ODIs) since the Champions Trophy last year. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah being undroppable from the Indian limited-overs team and Hardik Pandya fulfilling the third seamer’s role, opportunities for Umesh, and Mohammed Shami has been few and far in between.
Beyond the sterile quotes like ‘team combination’ and ‘ready to take anything for the team’, the harsh reality is that no player worth his salt likes to sit out. And when a fast bowler at his peak becomes a benchwarmer, his ego gets hurt. Playing for Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in this IPL, Umesh is out to prove a point. In RCB’s first game, against Kolkata Knight Riders, Kohli perhaps missed a trick by not unleashing the tearaway against Sunil Narine upfront. Umesh had been brought in the sixth over in that game and accounted for the marauding Narine with his second ball. He returned with 2/27 from his four overs, working up serious pace.
Against Kings XI Punjab at the Chinnaswamy on Friday, Umesh shared the new ball with Chris Woakes and snuffed the life the out of the Punjab batting in his second over. The beginning had been uneventful. Umesh conceded a couple of boundaries to Mayank Agarwal after KL Rahul took Woakes to the cleaners in the very first over of the match. The pitch was sluggish compared to Eden Gardens, but Umesh wisely stuck to his strength – raw pace.
An outswinger induced Agarwal to an expansive drive and the extra zip and movement carried the outside edge to Quinton de Kock behind the stumps, who took an outstanding catch. A fast break-back caught Aaron Finch on the crease next ball and the DRS confirmed the leg before decision on umpire’s call. Yuvraj Singh came and narrowly managed to clear the deep backward square fielder, pulling a half-tracker to the boundary. Against the thunderbolts barrage, the veteran barely had a chance. Umesh hurried the left-hander for pace and knocked out the middle stump. Three wickets in one over put the brakes on Punjab and they gradually faded after making a rapid start.
Rahul shows his mettle again
Fitness hiccups have prevented KL Rahul from cementing his place in the Indian limited-overs team. He now plays as a backup middle-order batsman and carries that extra pressure to perform to the crease. Back to his favourite opening slot for his IPL franchise, Rahul is hitting the ball unfettered.
Delhi Daredevils bore the brunt of his fury – a record 14-ball half-ton – a few days back. Today, the Bangalore boy, playing for Punjab this term, picked up where he had left off at Mohali. On his home turf, he smoked two sixes and a boundary against Woakes. A six off Kulwant Khejroliya, on the heels of those three quick wickets, was pure class. After a 58-run fourth-wicket stand with Karun Nair, during which the opener didn’t have the licence to throw caution to the wind, Rahul got out to a faster delivery from the Washington Sundar. Nevertheless, his 30-ball 47 was one of the highlights for Punjab.
Skill to thrive in shorter versions
A poor Champions Trophy final against Pakistan last year followed by the arrival of wrist-spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, has shut the limited-overs internationals door on R Ashwin for some time now. But the offie is still capable of game-changing stuff, in shorter formats, as he displayed tonight. 155 is not a defendable total at this venue and Bangalore had been steadily progressing towards a win despite Kohli’s fairly early dismissal to a Mujeeb Ur Rahman beauty. De Kock and AB de Villiers had added 54 runs for the third wicket, when Ashwin returned for his second spell and dismissed de Kock and Sarfaraz Khan off successive deliveries. The second one was a leg-break that turned sharply.
He choked RCB’s chase with his bowling and astute captaincy. But the hosts still won, because de Villiers stayed till the 19th over and went ballistic at the death. His 40-ball 57, including four sixes, eventually proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Brief Scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 159 for 6 (de Villiers 57, de Kock 45, Ashwin 2-30) beat Kings XI Punjab 155 (Rahul 47, Umesh 3-23, Sundar 2-22) by four wickets.