Perfect end to one of the best matches of IPL !

This IPL is the first I am watching since 4 years ago. I had lost interest, since my beloved Chennai Superkings had been booted out and there was a lot of fixing going on. But then I thought, why not give it a try again. Yesterday night Gujarat Lions played Mumbai Indians at Rajkot.  I was supporting the Lions, led by Suresh Raina, former CSK star. So were my parents.  Skipper Rohit Sharma of MI won the toss and sent the Lions in, and they got off to a flyer; with the young southpaw Ishan Kishan carting the ball to all parts of the ground. The Kiwi giant Brendon McCullum unwisely attempted an across-the-line slog off the veteran slinger Lasith Malinga; and was rewarded with his stumps getting splattered. 21/1 in 2 overs.

Meanwhile, Kishan flourished, with a variety of attacking boundaries on the off-side as well as leg-side. There was an elegant pull shot six, a crushing cut , as well as a sweetly timed late cut. His batting style somehow reminded me of Sri Lankan great Sanath Jayasuriya (especially the pull shot), and my dad too agreed. However, Kishan was losing partners, as the runs flowed but with a clatter of wickets at regular intervals. Skipper Raina  (on just his 3rd delivery) holed out off the bowling of Jaspreet Bumrah (you will see more of him in the end 😉 ), to a superb diving catch by the athletic West Indian Kieron Pollard. The Australian Aaron Finch chopped a ball from Malinga to his stumps for a duck, and wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik was stumped by his opposite number Parthiv Patel. As a result, there was a mini-collapse from 46/1 to 56/4; and the run-rate had reduced to less than seven an over.

However, Kishan continued to counter-attack, and he was joined by Ravindra Jadeja in his effort. Eventually though, Kishan’s luck ran out and he perished to another catch by Pollard; off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh. A rocking innings of 48 in 35 balls (which would turn out to be the highest score in the innings). It was 83/5 in 11.1 overs; and I switched the TV off, as I feared the match would become one-sided and I didn’t want to watch MI dominate. My dad later gave me some encouraging news of the Australian Andrew Tye belting boundaries, and I switched the TV on again. The Lions had recovered well from 101/7, with a partnership of 43 between the Australian all-rounders James Faulkner and Tye. However, Tye was run out superbly by Bumrah; who then castled Faulkner. 144/9 in 19 overs. Tye had turned things around for the Lions – with 25 off just 12 balls. Ultimately they finished on 153/9 in 20 overs – a quite respectable total, and a good recovery from 101/7.

The way Mumbai Indians began the chase, it seemed that the Lions’ total was mediocre. Parthiv Patel was in the form of his life, and every ball seemed to hit the sweet spot of his willow. The Englishman Jos Buttler was run out superbly by Faulkner, but MI had already reached 43 in just 4 overs. I agreed with the commentators, who felt that the Lions were bowling “crap”. It seemed that Parthiv was single-handedly taking his team to a commanding victory. Meanwhile, the Lions were dealt a blow; with the Aussie allrounder Tye seemingly dislocating his arm while fielding near the boundary. So a bowler short – that too one of the best performers in this season so far! However, some luck came the Lions’ way, as Nitish Rana was unfortunate to be given out LBW to Ankit Soni ;when replays showed that he had touched the ball with his glove! A howler of a decision by NZ umpire Chris Gaffaney, but much needed luck for the Lions :P. 82/2 in 9.4 overs.

Parthiv, however, continued to flourish like a man possessed, hitting boundaries at will; though skipper Rohit Sharma was tied down at the other end. James Faulkner then turned things around for the Lions with a superb over that brought 2 wickets – would have been 3 in fact, if not for a dropped catch. He got both Rohit and Parthiv to snick to the keeper – including a superb diving catch by Karthik (off a rising delivery) to send Parthiv back finally, after a superb innings of 70 off just 44 balls. 109/4 in 13.5 overs, and the crowd sensed that the match was turning their way. However, Krunal Pandya – who had earlier excelled with the ball for MI (3 wickets for 14 in 4 overs); did his turn with the bat as well. The introduction of the ice-cool Keralite Basil Thampi into the attack brought a twist in the tale again; as he sent back the dangerous Pollard as well as Hardik Pandya. 139/6 in 18.1 overs; and the match was turning out to be a humdinger.

Thampi then trapped Harbhajan Singh in front of legstump for a golden duck; to make it 142/7 in 18.5 overs. The chaos continued, with Kiwi Mitchell McClenaghan found short of his crease while attempting a 2nd run; thanks to a superb throw by Irfan Pathan fielding in the deep. Pathan looked completely different with his beard (as observed by my parents as well), and now he is a proud father too ;).  Anyway, MI had collapsed rapidly to 143/8 with an over left to score 11 runs. It was down to Pathan to bowl this critical last over. He had earlier bowled a rather expensive over, conceding 16 runs. However, the Lions had limited options otherwise; what with Andrew Tye being off the field with an injury.

The over began badly for Pathan, with a six straight down the ground by Krunal Pandya. My mother cursed the bowler in frustration, saying that he had undone all the good work done by that superb run-out. 5 off 5 balls required for MI now, with 2 wickets still in hand. Fortunately just a single was taken off the next ball, which left no.10 Bumrah to face Pathan. 4 off 4 balls. Ravindra Jadeja then showed off his famous fielding skills by getting Bumrah run out. 150/9. 4 required off 3 balls with just 1 wicket in hand. As English commentator Mark Nicholas would say, “you could cut the tension with a knife here”. Krunal Pandya thwacked the next ball down the ground, but superb fielding in the deep saved 2 runs. 2 off 2 balls. A single was then taken to level the scores. 1 off 1 ball, and a conference was going on between skipper Raina and Pathan (as well as a few other team mates). What a match, never thought it would come to this – the way MI were blasting earlier!

The no.11 Malinga was to face the final ball. Pathan served up a delivery down the legside, which Malinga luckily could only brush with his pads. There was a mad scramble for the winning run, and once again Jadeja showed his brilliance with a direct hit that caught Krunal Pandya just short of his crease – his bat was on the line when the bails were dislodged. Wow. The Mumbai Indians were all out for 153, and the match had ended in a tie – the 7th tie in IPL history – and this was the 10th IPL! 😉 The crowd of Rajkot was celebrating as if the match had been won (certainly a moral victory, I would say!), but there was still the small matter of the super over.

Since MI were the last team to bat, they were to take first strike in the super over. The good part of this over is that only two wickets are allowed (like 10 wickets in a regular game). This meant that it was a double-edged sword for the batsmen. Jos Buttler and Kieron Pollard came out to face the super over for MI, which was bowled by Faulkner.  Pollard hammered a six and a four before holing out to the deep, and MI finished with 11/2; with a ball wasted. Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum then came out to chase the super over target of 12.

Jaspreet Bumrah was the bowler entrusted to handle this, since he had delivered in death overs for India earlier. He began on the wrong note with a no-ball, but McCullum could take only a single from the free hit. Then a wide followed. My mother remarked that it seemed to be a strategy – to bowl the ball wide so as to make it difficult for the batsman to score. She could not have been more right. Bumrah then followed up these extras with balls delivered full on the offside , just wide enough for the batsman to reach out but not too far down the off side to be called a wide. 10 from 5 balls soon became 8 from 3 balls, and then finally an impossible 7 from 1 ball. I was hoping against hope for a six to tie the super over, but no such miracles happened and the batsmen could only get 1.

Bumrah, in ice-cool fashion, had clinched the super over for the Mumbai Indians; reining in renowned hitters like Finch and McCullum. Take a bow (as the late Tony Greig would have said). The Man of the Match was though rightfully given to Krunal Pandya, for his allround performance – first his 3 wickets for 14 runs in 4 overs to strangle the Gujarat middle order, and then his 29 off 20 balls during MI’s chase. I was sad for Gujarat Lions, but happy for the IPL had truly got the match it deserved – very refreshing especially after the miserable performances by Royal Challengers Bangalore – a team full of stars failing to perform. I just hope and pray for more such matches like this – so that the IPL is known for its cricket rather than the other forms of entertainment.



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