The action stays at Sharjah today afternoon after the madness last night between KKR and DC. Today the two teams to get scorched in the heat of Sharjah were SRH and MI. Warner is the most successful overseas player in IPL history and Rohit Sharma is the most successful captain in IPL with 4 successful campaigns against his name. The battle between the 2 promised to be interesting, especially with the short boundaries of Sharjah and the power-packed middle order of Mumbai Indians at the fore.
Yesterday, I wrote that for matches at Sharjah, I won’t be speaking much about the bowlers. But, this afternoon the biggest story of the match was the fact that bowlers have finally unlocked the way out of the Sharjah Maze. Yesterday, amidst the carnage 2 bowlers walked away with single-digit economies against their names. One was Dre Russ and the other was the more unassuming Harshal Patel. While Russell jammed his yorkers with accuracy, Harshal Patel took pace off his deliveries and made life difficult for the batsmen facing him.
Probably, taking a cue from Harshal both MI and SRH bowlers decided to take pace off their deliveries this afternoon. Suddenly, Sharjah was no more the impregnable fortress for the bowlers as batsmen started finding it difficult to time the ball. Taking pace off the deliveries is one of the main reasons, why SRH could restrict MI to a total of 208, in spite of the absence of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar- the leader of the attack.
Rohit was unlucky as he toe-ended a Sandeep Sharma delivery to be dismissed early. But it was the turn of his opening partner today to own the stage. It is strange, how small moments in the game can switch on a batsman. De Kock was struggling to time the ball, as he had done all through the tournament. Then he tried to pull one good length delivery from Abdul Samad and did not time it to perfection. It was a regulation catch for Manish Pandey and he let it burst through his fingers for a six. That miss switched on De Kock and suddenly his feet started moving well and he began timing the ball crisply.
He launched his attack against pace and spin alike as he bludgeoned Samad, Kaul, and Williamson to the cleaners. Finally, he was dismissed by the economical Rashid after a mind-boggling inning of 67 off 39 deliveries. Ishan Kishan provided ideal second fiddle to him as MI were bracing themselves to breach the 220 run-mark.
The only reason, why MI could not reach 220, in spite of having an enviable middle order was because of the bowling of Natarajan. I have spoken about the bowling of Natarajan in my previous articles as well, and I believe he can turn out to be the find of the season for SRH. His wrist position, his accuracy of cutters, and his pin-point yorkers remind me so much of Mustafizur Rahman- ironically who represented SRH in his brief stint at IPL.
Natarajan and the T20 globetrotter Rashid Khan ensured that MI was restricted to a subpar total of 187 till the 19th over. However, some last over pyrotechnics from the senior Pandya brother ensured MI breach the 200 barriers and set a target of 209.
For SRH to chase this down, either of the top 4 needed to score a brisk 80-90. Bairstow once again flattered to falter with a good 20. MI bowlers were excellent with their lengths from ball 1. It was very interesting to see Trent Boult coming in and bowling slower bouncers from as early as the 2nd over of the match. Franchise cricket makes you do weird things, and this was indeed one such example today.
Boult accounted for Bairstow with a slower bouncer, cutting short his innings- he was looking ominous for MI with his ball-striking abilities. Manish Pandey has looked good to play a match-winning innings every match, but he too has found himself out of the game at crucial junctures of the match. Today as well, SRH was looking in grip of the target with Warner and Pandey launching sixes for fun till the 9th over.
Captain Rohit realized that the game is drifting away from him and brought back Pattinson for his 3rd over to break the partnership. Pandey and Warner had just taken Rahul Chahar to the cleaners in the last over and they could afford to knock Pattinson for singles and score 7-8 runs off his over. However, Pandey decided to take on a slower from Pattinson on, and he was holed to Pollard at long-off.
It is fascinating how the Sharjah cauldron transformed from being a bowling graveyard to a bowling friendly pitch, once all these big pacers started banging the slower ones on the pitch. All the 4 top order batsmen of SRH were dismissed by slower cutters from the MI pacers. Trent Boult deceived his New Zealand captain with another slower short ball and the dismissal of Warner by a leg cutter from Pattinson was the last nail in the coffin for SRH.
Abdul Samad is a clean hitter of the cricket ball and he struck a few lusty blows but he match was already over by then. For the first time in this tournament, a batting team did not breach the 200 run mark at Sharjah and it was all courtesy the slower ball barrage from Mumbai Indians.
Going forward SRH will hope that Bhuvaneshwar Kumar will return soon, as Kaul actually looked clueless with his deliveries in this match. Otherwise, SRH doesn’t need to make any changes to the team as the liked of Garg, Samad and Sharma are looking in form. MI looks to have struck their ideal combination quite early in the tournament this time. However, I still feel Surya and Kishan both should not be playing simultaneously as it does not give enough deliveries to Pollard and the Pandyas. Dhawal Kulkarni can be a good replacement for either of them, at least as long as Hardik is not fit enough to bowl.