Royal Challengers Bangalore read the surface accurately, made suitable changes and orchestrated an emphatic victory over Kolkata Knight Riders. Mohammed Siraj might not sting on flat decks, but on a surface that offered early assistance for swing bowlers, he swung and stung, his three-wicket haul reducing Kolkata to 84/8, a target Bangalore overhauled without fuss.
Siraj swings and stings
For much of Kolkata Knight Riders’ shambolic innings, it was hard to fathom that a T20 match was underway. This was everything T20 cricket was not imagined to be — swing, maiden overs, spin, short-leg, wickets, referrals. It seemed five-day cricket camouflaged in bright attire.
At the heart of this most unusual evening was Siraj, whose existence in this edition, or in the league, was little more than a comma, or at best a semicolon; to be paused over briefly before being leaped over and forgotten. Until Wednesday. In three overs of immaculate control and precision for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Siraj made a strong statement of his prowess, which is to seam and swing the ball. He might not have the gift of pace or the dint of fancy variations. But provided a hint of assistance, he could deal painful blows.
In those overs that broke the back of Kolkata Knight Riders — which included two maidens, two runs and three wickets — Siraj furnished a masterful account of how to harness the modest assistance that the surface offered. He began with the wicket of Rahul Tripathi, who has the tendency to play away from the body. Siraj sucked him into a loose dab outside the off-stump, before making the ball move a trifle away after pitching. It was again the length, short-of-good length, that sowed doubts in Tripathi’s mind. He was neither on the front foot nor back. Siraj is not express pace but fast enough to prevent batsmen from propping forward with impunity.
WATCH – Siraj picks 2 in 2
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The next ball, he fooled Nitish Rana with inward movement. Right-handed bowlers who could swing the ball into left-handers are a precious commodity. It’s more difficult for the batsman if the bowler could welcome him with such a delivery. Siraj did exactly that, the ball ducking into Rana after landing. This time, the ball was fuller. He alternated his lengths between good and back-of-length, but did not overdo either.
Not every ball swung, making decision-making all the more difficult and foot-movement tentative. Tom Banton’s dismissal would attest. The dashing England batsman, who had settled in nicely with a six and four, hung back expecting a short-of-length ball. But it turned out to be fuller delivery, which he tried to drive. But his front foot was so far away from the ball that he outside-edged to the keeper. From 3-2 and 3-3 after Navdeep Saini had nabbed the scratchy Shubman Gill, Kolkata shrunk to 4-14 in 3.3 overs. There was no escape route from that precarious position. Siraj returned to finish his fourth over, in which he conceded six, but his spell of 4-2-8-3 is the most economical in IPL history.
Chahal spins and skins
Planning against Dinesh Karthik these days seems as simple as introducing your leg-spinner as soon as he strides out. Karthik’s head, it seems, goes spinning the moment he sees them. Before this match, leggies had dismissed him four times in eight outings this edition. He made it fifth, when Yuzvendra Chahal pinged him in front with the simplest of two-trick routines.
He spun one ball away from him, and the next into him. Karthik was clueless — he just thrust his bat forward, hoping that it was the leg-break. Instead, it was Chahal’s wrong’un that beat the inside edge and struck the back pad. Karthik thought he was safe when the umpire repelled the appeal, only for a last-ditch referral to overturn the decision. Karthik looked sheepish, like a self-aware man who knows he is terribly out of depth.
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