Kings XI Punjab were on top when they had four overs left in the chase and 42 runs to get. KL Rahul was in sublime form on 76 off 51, Aaron Finch was playing second fiddle on 46 off 34, there was some dew to trouble the bowlers, there were short boundaries to target for the batsmen, and Jasprit Bumrah, who had two overs left, had not been at his best this IPL.
Mumbai had been there before. Against Chennai Super Kings, they leaked 50 in the last three overs. In their next match, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai could not defend 12 in two overs despite taking it to the last ball. And against Rajasthan Royals, they conceded another 43 runs in the last three overs.
This time, the tricks worked for Bumrah, even as he knew he would not be bowling the last over again. In his own words, his plan was: to have clear plans, back himself, and leave as many runs as possible for Mitchell McClenaghan to defend in the 20th over.
“On a good day, when you have a clear plan, you are able to execute whatever you want,” Bumrah said after the match. “So it worked for me. On some days, it doesn’t work. So I don’t look at what has happened before, what will happen in the future. My focus is always to have a clear plan, I plan and I back myself in whichever situation I’m bowling.
“Clarity is very important when you’re bowling at the death,” he said at the presentation. “Sometimes when you’re not backing yourself, there’s always doubt when you deliver. If I’m clear, most of the times it’s easier to execute. My basic plan is to have a good clarity. Even on a bad day when a batsman hits you, you have to execute your plan.
“With one or two games, in three hours I always believe a player does not become bad,” he said about the games he could not win for Mumbai this season. “I always feel that you have done it before you can do it again. So you don’t think of opinions or what is going on outside. In that game also, I was backing my plan, I was not able to execute. In this game, I was backing my plan still and I had the belief that I’ll be able to bowl a good over. You always want to bowl a good over but some days it doesn’t go your way because at the position where I bowl, it is difficult, especially at this ground with the dew going around.”
On Wednesday night, Bumrah’s plans worked to perfection. He dismissed Finch with the first ball of the 17th over and then bounced out Marcus Stoinis while conceding only four runs. In the 19th over, he took out the dangerous Rahul with a slower delivery and conceded just six runs to finish with 4-0-15-3.
“We already knew he (Rahul) had been batting well throughout the tournament,” Bumrah said. “In the bowler’s meeting, we usually talk about every player so I had a chat with Shane Bond and [Lasith] Malinga and that there’d be dew. To have a clear plan is very important whenever you bowl, so I was focusing on that today.”
McClenaghan had 16 runs to defend with Axar Patel and an out-of-form Yuvraj Singh in the middle and he bowled a mix of wide yorkers, length deliveries and bouncers to seal Mumbai’s three-run win. He later admitted he was not the death bowler he used to be.
“Bumrah is that guy you can just bank on,” McClenaghan told Star Sports after the match. “He’s that Mr. Reliable. Every time you feel like he’s got the ball in the hand and he’s not going to go for many runs. He’s a threat when he is bowling defensively. I think he’s an outstanding talent and, in this format in particular, you can bank on him to do his job and that’s the most empowering thing for a bowler at the other end. Bumrah gave me a defendable total in the last over, so again guy under pressure and that’s why he’s India’s best death bowler.
“I haven’t been the best death bowler in the last 18 months. Before that, that was my strength. Right now, my role is predominantly to try and take wickets at the top.”
Mumbai realised that a few matches ago and started opening the bowling with McClenaghan and, at times, made him bowl three of his four overs by the 10th. He would bowl quick, mostly short of length and try to pick up wickets. It worked against Kings XI too when he dismissed Chris Gayle with a short delivery in the fourth over, similar to how Umesh Yadav had removed the batsman in Kings XI’s previous match.
“Try and bowl as many balls that don’t go over the shoulder [to Gayle],” McClenaghan explained. “And try and get away with a few balls above his belly button and try and get it back into him. He’s in phenomenal form and even if you bowl waist height, he’s hitting the ball out of the park so you’ve to try and be aggressive because he’ll come hard so you’ve got to go back just as hard.”
Apart from Bumrah’s show, Mumbai were also buoyed by the return of Kieron Pollard. Batting at No. 6, Pollard unleashed a 23-ball 50, studded with five fours, three sixes, some emotional punches and celebrations.
“Pollard has always been a match-winner for us,” Rohit Sharma said. “Leaving him out was a very tough decision. As a team, we thought now is the time to get him back because – not taking anything away from JP Duminy as well – he was not getting an opportunity and we thought if he’s batting down the order, Pollard will be a better option for us, finishing off games like he has done in the past. Come a big game and he stands up for us, he wants to take that challenge and he was very disappointed when we left him out. So I was looking for that one opportunity to bring him back in the squad because he’s been a crucial member of this squad for a number of years now. It was very important for us that he comes out and bats like that.”
Back on the fourth position in the points table with 12 points, Mumbai’s target is clear just like Bumrah’s plan was when he bowled: win the last match against Delhi Daredevils and the positive net run-rate will do the rest.
How do you fit Ben Stokes back in the England team?
Ben Stokes was added to the England squad for the third Test against India less than two hours after being acquitted of affray at Bristol Crown Court. From a purely cricketing point of view, England now have the dilemma of how to fit him back into the team after the success of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran. Here are the main options
It would be harsh on Curran just two games after a Man of the Match award, but as the least experienced of the attack he is probably the most vulnerable. However, Trent Bridge is known as a venue that favours swing bowlers – James Anderson’s stats are outstanding at the ground – and that is Curran’s strength. His left-arm angle has also caused the India batsmen problems. This does, though, appear to be the likeliest route for Stokes’ inclusion. What of the last in, first out route? Chris Woakes was Stokes’ direct replacement at Lord’s. Nope. After a maiden Test century and four wickets, that won’t be happening with Woakes.
No spinner gamble
Adil Rashid had one of the quietest Tests of the all-time at Lord’s. Trent Bridge has the highest average for England spinners of all their home Test venues so there could be an argument whether they even need a spinner. There is rarely, however, a situation where five quicks does not feel like an overkill regardless of the venue. The luxury that England have – due to their number of allrounders – is always being able to field a balanced attack, so it would seem counter-intuitive to move away from that.
All the allrounders
It’s the era of the allrounder for England so how about playing them all? Trevor Bayliss has more than once said how he believes Stokes can be a Test No. 5 – and he played that role in Auckland earlier this year. This would entail leaving out Ollie Pope or Jos Buttler. Pope showed promise on his debut while Buttler was named vice-captain at the start of the series, so is clearly inked in as part of the side. Buttler’s omission would also mean a further reshuffle in the slips and leaving out Pope would have Jonny Bairstow batting at No. 4 and keeping wicket. There is one way around that: give Buttler the gloves and leave Bairstow to be a specialist batsman. That, though, won’t be happening anytime soon.
Something really radical
Linked to the option of taking the gloves off Bairstow would be a significant shake-up of the batting order. Promote Bairstow to open – the position he holds in one-day cricket with such success – in place of Keaton Jennings who has yet to make a substantial score since his recall, albeit in some tricky batting conditions. That would, as with the previous option, allow Stokes to fit back into the middle while also retaining Pope and Buttler. However, opening in Test cricket is a much different prospect to the one-day game where the white Kookaburra barely moves. And there’s that wicketkeeping debate.
Leave him out
Just because Stokes is in the squad doesn’t mean he has to play. He has been through an emotionally draining period in court. No doubt Stokes will think he’s ready to play, but sometimes for the sake of a player the decision has to be taken out of his hands. The flip side to that is that, with his court case looming, he did not lose an ounce of focus at Edgbaston in a matchwinning performance.
The third Curran – Ben – signs for Northamptonshire
Ben Curran, the brother of England cricketers Sam and Tom, has signed with Northamptonshire, the club of their late father, Kevin, for the remainder of the season.
Ben, 22, a left-handed batsman, made his Northamptonshire debut in the T20 Blast against Derbyshire last week after a successful period in the 2nd XI where he scored 490 runs in six Championship matches having caught the club’s eye while playing against them for MCC Young Cricketers.
“I’m delighted to have signed for Northants. The fact that my Dad played here too it makes it even more special to be able to represent this county,” Curran said
“I hope that I can contribute in all three formats over the next few years and fingers crossed we can have a strong end to the season in both the Blast and the County Championship”.
Northants’ head coach, David Ripley said: “Ben has scored heavily in all formats for us in the 2’s as well as continuing to churn out runs for the MCCYC’s.
“He deserves an opportunity and we look forward to working with him over the next two seasons. He has a lot of competitive spirit and I know he will make the most of his chance.
“We are grateful to Steve Kirby and the YC’s for their cooperation in making this happen.”
Kevin Curran had a successful spell with Northamptonshire between 1991 and 1999
Adam Zampa, Glenn Phillips keep St Lucia Stars winless | Cricket
Jamaica Tallawahs 176 for 4 (Phillips 58, Powell 43) beat St Lucia Stars 175 all out (Fletcher 43, Sammy 36, Zampa 3-27, Thomas 3-39) by six wickets
Andre Russell’s captaincy career remains perfect while St Lucia Stars still have no idea what a win feels like, they’re now winless for 14 matches – a streak stretching back to 2016 when they were known as the Zouks. For the record, Jamaica Tallawahs recorded their second successive win courtesy a Glenn Phillips half-century and an 81-run stand with Johnson Charles in a 176 chase. They eventually won with two balls to spare, but the win was more comprehensive than that.
Double your curse: Zouks meet Sandpapergate
It’s hard to know which curse possesses a more powerful life force at the moment: the Zouks, who have hexed the St Lucia franchise since they were struck off the letterhead or those impacted by Sandpapergate or David Warner’s string of unlucky and unusual dismissals that started in King City during the Global T20 Canada.
Warner was the victim of one of the poorer lbw decisions of the DRS era on Saturday, struck outside off stump on the gloves missing a reverse sweep. On Wednesday, he was partially done in by lack of footwork, but even still his toe-drag drive against Oshane Thomas would have gone past leg stump on most occasions. Instead the ball caromed off Warner’s feet, then knuckled up into the air with the backspin grazing off the bails. All Warner could do was laugh as he walked off.
Another CPL matchwinning leggie
Russell intervened to break a 54-run stand between Lendl Simmons and Andre Fletcher that followed Warner’s early dismissal, but the major momentum killer in the Stars innings was Adam Zampa, who continued the trend of legspinners producing top notch performances in CPL 2018.
Fletcher was his first victim in the 11th over, aiming for mid-on to a delivery pitching on leg stump when sharp turn produced a leading edge long-off. Two balls later, another leg stump delivery accounted for Mark Chapman, but this one was a googly that beat Mark Chapman’s drive to crash into the stumps. His biggest blow came in the 16th when a quicker ball cramped Kieron Pollard for room on an attempted cut that floated to Ross Taylor at point. The tail wagged for 50 runs in the final five overs but Stars were well short of what they could have achieved before Zampa wiped out their big guns.
Phill your boots
Playing the last place team in the competition is a general invitation to make merry with bat or ball. Tallawahs keeper Phillips accepted the offer to top score with 58 off 40 balls, including a half-dozen sixes. The high number of dot balls was representative of a decent effort across the first five overs of the Powerplay by the Stars bowling unit to keep the run rate manageable, but that unraveled in the sixth over bowled by Qais Ahmad.
It actually started off quite well for Qais, who beat Phillips with a pair of ripping legbreaks on the first two deliveries that had Darren Sammy excited at slip. But Qais started bowling a 14-yard length to match the inevitable extension of Stars winless streak to 14 matches and the result was three straight balls heaved by Phillips over square leg for six, six and four. He eventually brought up his fifty off 34 balls in the 11th over before falling to Obed McCoy, caught uppercutting to third man where Kesrick Williams took a fantastic diving catch.
Simmons may want to find a seat as far away as possible from Pollard on the Stars flight from Jamaica to St Lucia for the start of their home leg. The three worst fielding mistakes of the night all came courtesy Simmons, all three off his captain’s bowling.
The first incident happened in the 14th over when Andre McCarthy drove softly to Simmons who spilled a straightforward chance at cover. The next incident happened in the 18th over when Rovman Powell swung one to long-on where Simmons covered ground running right but shelled another chance.
The Simmons misfieldhat-trick was completed on the final ball of the match. Ross Taylor had just leveled scores on the third ball of the 20th over with a six over midwicket. Taylor drove the next ball straight to Simmons at mid-off. Perhaps aware that it was Simmons doing the fielding, Powell bolted from the non-striker’s end while Taylor stayed put only to see Simmons fumble the ball between his legs.
Taylor belatedly took off as Simmons eventually gathered the ball on the third attempt and still had plenty of time to relay to either Pollard or Sammy, who was running in from short midwicket to field a throw over the stumps. But Simmons fired a panicky throw well wide of the stumps that also shorthopped Sammy and gave him no chance to collect despite Taylor being five yards short. An exasperated Pollard shook his head, praying that his side’s fortunes will change over the next five matches at home in Gros Islet.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo’s USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna
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