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Friday, November 27, 2020

KXIP vs MI: Mohammad Shami’s block-hole blockbuster over

With just five runs to defend in the first Super Over on Sunday night, Kings XI bowler Mohammad Shami excelled with yorkers.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Updated: October 20, 2020 7:43:27 am
Shami, IPL 2020The KXIP skipper believes that when seniors perform, juniors take inspiration and that's what is happening thanks to Shami's efforts. (BCCI/IPL)

Bowling a Super Over must feel different from delivering the 20th over of a chase in a T20. It has the quality of a set-piece about it. Cut off from the rest of the game, adrift in a parallel universe with its own set of rules, it has the whiff of a Fast Draw about it. Some bowlers just seem better equipped to handle it.

And so, when Mohammad Shami lingered at the top of his run-up, with just five runs to defend, not many would have felt he would be able to do it, as Kings XI Punjab’s survival was at stake in the IPL, and Mumbai Indians’ Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma were at the crease.

Jasprit Bumrah’s brilliance, when MI bowled in the first Super Over, had restricted the victory target to a very chaseable one. Unsurprisingly, Bumrah had gone with yorkers.

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Shami has the yorker but doesn’t rely on it. He likes to mix them up, often choosing back-of-length balls, bouncers or slower ones. In this tournament, he has even shown a child-like joyous obsession with his knuckle-ball slower ones. He took out Virat Kohli with a knuckle-ball bouncer, a variety he uses sparingly. He held his arms aloft, a smile rapidly filled his face, and had a look of joy as he glanced at Kohli, before his eyes jerked away. Subsequently, in that game and in the ones that followed, the knuckle ball has bled boundaries too.

Shami’s reluctance to go all-yorkers in the past has been understandable as he doesn’t have the control of a Bumrah. It has, every now and then, slipped out as a full toss, under pressure. Typically, he goes for an assortment of deliveries in the end overs, in the belief that variety would work in T20s. And to be fair, it has worked, even if a bit inconsistently. And the batsmen with their ramp shots and reverse laps rack up the pressure to get the yorker inch-perfect, resulting in most bowlers losing their nerve.

“He (Shami) was very clear he wanted to go six yorkers,” KXIP captain KL Rahul said after the match. That’s a surprise, a pleasant one. He hasn’t always shown that sort of clarity in the past. Without a clear focus, the Super Over must feel like an untameable beast.

Last year, in a successful Super Over face-off against Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Capitals’ Kagiso Rabada had talked about his choice of yorkers. “In the regular 20 overs, yorkers was Plan B. In the Super Over, it was Plan A. (Some days) you can be positive with two things you want to do, today it was just yorkers.”

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Rabada also made it clear that he had decided on yorkers before he took the field for that Super Over. As did Shami, with his predetermined clarity.

The choice of weapon was perhaps dictated by the batsmen – Sharma and de Kock. Both don’t move around their crease too much; they certainly don’t ramp too well and aren’t known for their lap shots. They might try, as they did, but it doesn’t have the threat of a Jos Buttler.

Both are explosive batsmen but are essentially openers and don’t carry the aura of a marauding big hitter. In the bowler’s mind, the threat is different. Especially, when Shami had decided he was going with yorkers. The two openers might be best equipped skill-wise to put away a seaming or swinging delivery to the rope, but yorkers are different. These two batsmen also don’t use the crease fully.

A Pollard would have either gone well outside the crease or retreated back to try getting under the ball. With just five runs to overhaul, these two didn’t feel the necessity to extend themselves thus. They perhaps thought this could be done the traditional way.

“When you are nailing them (yorkers), it seems to be happening automatically. When you are not, it’s a completely different story,” Rabada again, from last year.

In the here and now, Shami ran in to bowl. His first ball was an attempted yorker outside off. It ended up as a low full-toss, which de Kock tried to ramp, unsuccessfully. Rohit faced the next ball, another attempted yorker, and scored another single, trying to play it inside-out. The third ball was a wide yorker. Once again, de Kock couldn’t force the pace.

Shami’s fourth ball was a dot, a copybook yorker that Rohit tried to play opening the face of the bat to try beating short third man and backward point but couldn’t pierce the gap. Fifth ball, and Shami nailed his yorker again. Rohit attempted a ramp, got an outside edge and scampered a single. Two runs to get off the final delivery, and another excellent yorker restricted the scoring to one, as de Kock was run out, going for the second.

Perhaps, since it was Shami, the two batsmen were also unsure if he would go all-yorkers on them. That might have influenced some of their decision-making and reflected in some of the weak shots they played. Shami had done the unthinkable.

Shami in 1st Super Over

0.1 (1 run): A wide-low yorker, de Kock tries to ramp on the full.
0.2 (1 run): Sharma attempts an inside-out to a full ball.
0.3 (1 run): Wide yorker to de Kock, hits to deep cover
0.4 (no run): A yorker to Sharma.
0.5 (1 run): Another yorker, Sharma tries the ramp shot
0.6 (1 run, wicket/run out): Wide Yorker again, de Kock hits to extra cover.

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