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.
Thisara Perera’s all-round heroics down Dhaka Dynamites
Comilla Victorians 153 for 8 (Shamsur 48, Tamim 34, Shakib 3-24) beat Dhaka Dynamites 146 for 9 (Russell 46, Thisara 3-14, Afridi 2-18) by seven runs
How the game played out
Comilla Victorians pulled out a sloppy, see-saw affair by seven runs thanks to the all-round heroics of Thisara Perera. Though the final margin might indicate that the game went down to the wire, Victorians actually sealed it quite comfortably in the final three overs when the Dhaka Dynamites tail was left stranded following the dismissal of captain Shakib Al Hasan.
The match was far from a crisp contest, with a series of missed chances on both sides that served to keep it interesting. Deep square leg and deep midwicket were high-traffic areas throughout the day and the Victorians’ ability to seize more chances on the boundary paid off in the end.
With Liam Dawson struggling to get bat on ball at one end, the red-hot Thisara Perera clattered three sixes in his 26 off 12 balls before he was run out in the final over in a mix-up trying to steal a bye.
Thisara removed a rampaging Andre Russell for 46 in the 15th over to defuse the Dynamites’ chase with a slower ball pulled to deep midwicket.
With 36 needed off 25 balls and with five wickets in hand, Shakib pulled a full toss from Shahid Afridi straight to deep midwicket.
Thisara followed up Shakib’s dismissal with two more via the short ball in the 17th, effectively snuffing out the Dynamites chances
Star of the day
Thisara Perera not only continued to be the Victorians’ sensational spark plug at the end of the innings with the bat, but silenced the Dynamites at the death. Not only did he take three crucial wickets, but he conceded just a single in the 19th over, leaving 19 runs to get off the last six balls, which wound up being too tough for the tail.
The big miss
Shakib got an absolute meatball from Afridi that should have been hit out of the ground. He stood motionless at the wicket once he realised he didn’t get the elevation to clear the man on the boundary and even though the required run rate was just nine per over for the last four, Dynamites’ last recognised batsman was gone to turn Dynamites from favorites to underdogs.
Where the teams stand
Victorians joined Dynamites on 10 points at the top of the table in a three-way tie for first place with Chittagong Vikings, but the Vikings have two games in hand.
Dhoni, Dhawan should have played domestic cricket before Australia ODIs – Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir believes that the likes of MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan should have been asked to play first-class cricket before joining the Indian team for the ODI series in Australia, so that they could have hit the ground running. He was also sceptical about Rishabh Pant’s chances of making it to the World Cup squad, and said playing in the IPL before the World Cup could be a blessing in disguise for India’s players. Gambhir was speaking at an event in Bangalore. Excerpts:
On playing domestic cricket before the Australia ODIs:
I was a little disappointed because some of the guys should have played first-class cricket. The selectors should have pushed them to play first-class cricket. Because it’s a World Cup year, you’ve got to be in prime form. Whether it was MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu (Rayudu retired from first-class cricket earlier this season)… all those guys who went to Australia.
Why do you skip it? Because ultimately you will get confidence by scoring runs, not by hitting the nets. You can’t be thinking, ‘I’m going to come back into form just by playing international cricket.’ The only way everyone has done it is by playing domestic cricket and scoring runs. It’s a World Cup year, so I think the selectors should have made everyone play domestic cricket.
Does Rishabh Pant have a place in the ODI squad?
I don’t think so. They’ve got MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik. He can wait for his opportunity. Obviously he has done well in Test cricket. He’s doing all the right things. But if you’ve got Dhoni, who got [the] Man-of-the-Series award, he deserves to be there now. And it’s so close to the World Cup, you need someone like Dhoni. Karthik has been in decent form as well over the last four-five months. The good thing is, Rishabh is keeping them on their toes as well, which is always a good sign for Indian cricket, that youngsters are pushing the seniors.
On players potentially skipping the IPL to rest before the World Cup:
I think playing the IPL is a fabulous opportunity for most of those guys to be in peak form. Because you’re only bowling four overs. It’s not like there is a lot of physical burden on you. Plus you’re going to be bowling in difficult conditions as well, whether in the first six overs or the last four. So that will keep you in good shape. You don’t suddenly miss the IPL and say ‘I’ll go to the World Cup fresh and raring to go.’ That is only from the physical point of view, but from the skill point of view, to be at the top of your game, you’ve got to be playing a tournament like the IPL. And if you do well at the IPL, it’s going to keep you in very good stead in the World Cup. Imagine Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowling well in the death overs, how confident they would be going into the World Cup. Or some of the middle-order batters finishing the game for their franchise, they’ll go to the World Cup thinking, ‘We can finish from any situation’. So I think the IPL can be a blessing in disguise. I think MS Dhoni made a very good point when he said that it’s going to be a great opportunity for most of the players to be in prime form from the skill point of view.
On how Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul’s potential absence could affect the team:
One person does not change anything. The core still remains the same. KL Rahul wasn’t even there in the playing XI because we had Rayudu who did fabulously well against West Indies, so he deserved a chance before Rahul in the one-day format. Yes Hardik Pandya [might have made a difference], but you’ve replaced him with Ravindra Jadeja, who again is an allrounder. We only have, what, ten ODIs left before the World Cup? So we should maintain consistency and give people who are going to play the first game of the World Cup these ten games and see how they deliver.
It’s his hard work. I shared it because it was his first international hundred. I wanted to make him feel special because it was his first international hundred. Irrespective of how many you get, I remember my first international hundred till now, even when I’m retired. That always stays close to your heart, it’s a feeling that can never be replaced, even if you get 100 international hundreds, or how many ever. The first is always special, your debut is always special. Whenever he sees that trophy he should remember that. And whatever he’s achieved is all because of his hard work. I hope he continues this form because it’s going to be an important year for Indian cricket.
On what makes Jasprit Bumrah difficult to pick:
People ask me this about Sunil Narine as well, what made him so difficult to pick – and I just said, ‘quality’. Mystery can be solved over a period of time, but he had the quality. People can keep talking about Bumrah’s action, but he’s just a quality bowler. The action can only help you in one format, probably T20 where you have to go after the bowling. But he’s been so successful in Test cricket. He’s probably the best bowler in the world right now in all three formats.
On which spinners India should look at for the World Cup:
I think both wristspinners have done a fabulous job for Indian cricket over the last one year. But I still feel that R Ashwin is someone we should look at. A quality spinner is a quality spinner, irrespective of whether you’re a wristspinner or a fingerspinner. Look at what Nathan Lyon has done in the Test series. He’s probably the best offspinner in the world and he’s a fingerspinner. So I feel we should not differentiate that there’s a wristspinner so there’s no space for a finger spinner. Someone like Ashwin, we should always consider. Looking at the conditions in England during that time of the year, the wickets could be dry and a fingerspinner could have an important role.
Hasan Ali’s counterattacking fifty hauls Pakistan to 203
Pakistan 203 (Hasan 59, Sarfraz 41, Phehlukwayo 4-22, Shamsi 3-56) v South Africa
Only a check of the schedule would tell you it’s an ODI, much less that it’s being played at Kingsmead. The first innings today took Pakistan back to the Test series, where the short ball was an unconquerable demon, and Duanne Olivier and Kagiso Rabada invincible tormentors. A series of dismissals when the ball was pitched short saw Pakistan hampered in their innings early on, before an inspired performance from Tabraiz Shamsi, deputising for Imran Tahir, helped reduce Pakistan to 112 for 8. The left-arm wristspinner, fighting for a World Cup spot, ended up among the better bowlers, taking three wickets, and at one point appeared to have set up his side for a seemingly straightforward chase.
It required the most delightful joie de vivre sort of innings from Hasan Ali – a character who matches that description to the fullest – to keep Pakistan in the contest. They were 59 of the most uncomplicated runs that saw Pakistan recover to 203. Hasan was responsible for 59 of the 90 runs which came in a ninth-wicket partnership with Sarfraz Ahmed, and was last man dismissed after Andile Phehlukwayo returned to remove both Sarfraz and Hasan in the 46th over.
Hasan’s innings remained in spirit the typical knock of a have-a-go hero, but the sweet timing of the strikes against legitimately world-class bowling gave it the air of conventional classiness you might not expect from Hasan. At any rate, it gave Pakistan more than a fighting chance. It was only thanks to career-best figures from Phehlukwayo that it wasn’t even more, his 4 for 22 including those vital last two wickets that finally put paid to Pakistan’s innings.
Faf du Plessis had won the toss again, this time deciding to let Pakistan bat first after much criticism around his side’s failure to pace their innings well. Pace was never a problem for his fast bowlers, though, who accounted for Pakistan’s top four in the first hour with deliveries that grew big on the batsmen. Imam-ul-Haq mistiming a pull shot off a Rabada ball was a harbinger for what was to come, and Babar Azam was dismissed cheaply much the same way. Then came the now-customary Fakhar Zaman dismissal off a short ball, when Olivier got one to rise towards his grille, the batsman fending it off to gully.
The middle overs might have been an opportunity for rebuilding, but Shamsi had other ideas. Brought in to replace Tahir, he had big boots to fill, and he acted like it. The first ball of his spell drew an edge from Malik that first slip would have pouched had one been placed, and off his fourth delivery, he snared fellow spinner Shadab Khan. It wasn’t long before debutant Hussain Talat, curiously promoted ahead of Sarfraz, fell to perhaps the ball of the innings. An exquisite stock ball beat Talat’s outside edge, drawing him out of his crease while Heinrich Klaasen deftly removed the bails.
Sarfraz, who has been shy of batting too high up the order since becoming captain, finally came in at No. 8. While Pakistan fans might have hoped for a valuable partnership with Shoaib Malik to rescue the side, injudicious shot selection from Malik soon left Pakistan eight down. It was after that that Pakistan’s finest moments in the innings were to arrive, thanks to a refreshingly straightforward innings from Hasan. He threw off the shackles, attacked every bowler he faced, seamer or spinner, his 59 coming off just 45 balls. It included five fours and three sixes, taking Pakistan past 200 where once they looked like they might struggle to reach 125.
South Africa still may be expected to chase this; 203 is, after all, well below par. But where once this looked like it might be headed for an early finish, there may now be a contest to be enjoyed after all.
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