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.
SLC to support investigation into pitch-fixing allegations
Sri Lanka Cricket will cooperate fully with the ICC in its investigations into allegations of pitch-fixing in two Test matches in the past, and potentially one later this year against England.
The board’s response came after TV news channel Al Jazeera claimed that a person involved in preparing the pitches in Galle for the Tests against India in 2017 and Australia in 2016 had tailored the surfaces according to instructions from a person involved in betting. The report also alleged that the Galle pitch for the Test against England later this year would also be made to order for betting.
“Mr Ashley de Silva, CEO of Sri Lanka Cricket is in contact with the CEO of the International Cricket Council Mr. David Richardson and the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit on the matter,” SLC said. “Sri Lanka Cricket wishes to state that it has zero tolerance towards corruption and will take immediate action against any person involved in the alleged incident, if found guilty.
“In the meantime, Sri Lanka Cricket is constantly engaged with the ICC and is following its guidelines on how to handle anti-corruption operations for the forthcoming tours in Sri Lanka.”
The ICC confirmed it was investigating the report. “The ICC is aware of an investigation into corruption in cricket by a news organisation and as you would expect we will take the contents of the programme and any allegations it may make very seriously,” Alex Marshall, ICC general manager Anti-Corruption Unit, said in a statement. “We have already launched an investigation working with anti-corruption colleagues from Member countries based on the limited information we have received. We have made repeated requests that all evidence and supporting materials relating to corruption in cricket is released immediately to enable us to undertake a full and comprehensive investigation.”
According to another head curator in Sri Lanka, however, the individual mentioned in the Al Jazeera report is not a curator, but someone in charge of the temporary staff working at the Galle stadium and was not in charge of either of the two Test pitches specified in the report.
The Al Jazeera report claimed that the individual – under instructions from the bettors – had made a batting-friendly surface for the India Test and a spin-friendly one for the Australia Test, but ESPNcricinfo can confirm the Sri Lanka team had in fact requested the actual curator for such surfaces. Additionally, Galle surfaces have often tended to be very spin-friendly, and are routinely result-oriented pitches, the last draw there having come in 2013.
Hasan Raza caught on camera in alleged spot-fixing sting
Former Pakistan batsman Hasan Raza has been filmed on camera by news channel Al Jazeera in the same room as another former cricketer – Robin Morris from Mumbai – talks about facilitating spot-fixing in T20 tournaments.
Raza does not participate in the conversation between Morris and the undercover reporter, but is seated in the chair adjacent to Morris. Raza and Morris both played for Mumbai Champs, a team in the now-defunct Indian Cricket League between 2007-08.
Al Jazeera said Hasan Raza did not respond to its allegations, while Morris “denies any wrongdoing” and said the channel invited him “to audition for, and act in, a commercial movie ‘for public entertainment’.”
In the video, part of a broader investigative documentary the channel will air from Sunday, Morris talks about setting up a T20 tournament for the purposes of spot-fixing and betting. He says that no A-grade players will be involved, but that he can bring in B, C, and D grade players. He talks of taking such tournaments from Dubai, to Hong Kong, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.
In another location, poolside at a hotel, a person identified by Al Jazeera as Gaurav Rajkumar is seen and heard talking about organising a four-team T20 tournament in the UAE. Morris is also present during this conversation and later details how much money a corrupt player stands to make by facilitating spot-fixing in such tournaments.
Al Jazeera said Rajkumar also claimed the channel invited him to act in a movie for public entertainment.
The videos were released on the same day that Al Jazeera also alleged that a person involved in the preparation of pitches in Galle, Sri Lanka, for the Tests against India in 2017 and Australia in 2016 had tailored the surfaces according to instructions from a person involved in betting. The report also alleged that the Galle pitch for the Test against England later this year would also be made to order for betting.
CSK, Sunrisers reflect on challenges overcome on eve of grand final
The two IPL 2018 finalists have traversed contrasting paths during the past seven weeks to get to Mumbai. And now they face off for the fourth time this season, after overcoming very different challenges.
Sunrisers Hyderabad will play their second IPL final but for their new captain Kane Williamson, it will be his first. They have largely banked on Williamson’s batting and strangled oppositions with their bowling attack, and Sunrisers coach Tom Moody said succeeding on different kind of pitches – especially adapting to flat ones – was their strength.
“They [bowlers] have done an excellent job,” Moody said while sitting next to Williamson at the team hotel in Mumbai. “There’s no question about that. We played on a number of varied wickets throughout the tournament and we’ve managed to adjust pretty effectively with Kane’s leadership with regards to how he used those bowlers through the 20 overs. We’ve managed to – more often than not – get it right.
“I guess those experiences of playing on some wickets that the team found flat has been really good for us. We did come across a couple of surfaces which were quite different than what we had played a lot of our games on. Yes, we didn’t get the results that we wanted but what we did get was compete in every single one of those games. We didn’t have an occasion this year where we were smashed up in any game. Even last night, perhaps a lot of people thought after the seventh over we’re out of the contest, but that was certainly not the mind set of the 11 players on the field.”
Their opponents Chennai Super Kings are in the final in their first season back after serving a two-year suspension. MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming were together at Rising Pune Supergiant for those two years as well, and are reaping the benefits of those experiences – second from bottom in 2016 and second from top in 2017 – with their original franchise. Among their problems were the average age of their squad, a couple of tournament-ending injuries, and losing home advantage after playing only one game in Chennai.
“The challenge this year was slightly different to what we faced in the past seven-eight years,” Dhoni said on the eve of the IPL final. “The age group of the boys was definitely a concern as we had to keep them fit because of the frequency of the games. You have to manoeuvre your resources and you have to look at the bigger picture, to make sure that when we come to the business end of the tournament, our best XI is available.
“I was saddened that we couldn’t play our home matches in Chennai but I was still happy that we played at least one match. Our fans waited a very long time for this moment.”
CSK’s strength has been how different players have stepped up one after another to steal wins from oppositions. Faf du Plessis’ 67 against Sunrisers earlier this week was the latest example. It also meant Dhoni has plenty of resources to choose from, which showed when he did not bowl Harbhajan Singh at all in the first qualifier. In typical philosophical mode, Dhoni said having experience in his “old” squad made a difference, but that was not all a T20 team needed.
“Yes, we want to contribute as a team but it is always good when an individual takes the game away from the opposition as it makes the job of the others easy,” Dhoni said. “Experience really counts but it’s not that it always matters. It is not something that can’t be replaced.
“It is good that whenever we have played we have had at least two good fielders or outstanding fielders, that can man that deep midwicket position. We have done well so far but it is something that can hurt us at any time.
“There are times especially when you have six to seven bowlers in the side, you see the conditions, who is batting and what is needed at that point. I have always said in the past when we had [Pawan] Negi and [Ravindra] Jadeja I always gave them different slots in bowling. I see the conditions and what is best for the team, and then decide who to bowl, who has the best chance against the batsman. It is always tough, in the last game I didn’t feel it was necessary to bowl him (Harbhajan), and I didn’t bowl him.”
Fleming, the CSK coach, was aware that Sunrisers also had individual performers standing up, citing Rashid Khan’s example, and joked while looking at Williamson and Moody at the press conference table to say, “he won’t probably be able to do it tomorrow because having to do it twice in a row is tough.”
Fleming brought up the point of how the CSK squad had been “written off after the auction” and said having different performers contribute to wins was “a characteristic of our campaign that we needed.”
“I guess teams win competitions when individuals can win finals, so we’re game for that match-winning performance and it’s going to have to come because the opposition is very good,” Fleming said.
Despite having loads of experience in the squad, Fleming and Dhoni also carry the burden of a poor record in finals, having won only two out of six with CSK, and losing one for Rising Pune Supergiant against Mumbai Indians last year. Williamson also carries baggage but of a different kind – of losing three matches to CSK already this year.
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