IPL 2022: Amidst carnage and dew, how bowlers can fight back and keep batters in check

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IPL 2022: Amidst carnage and dew, how bowlers can fight back and keep batters in check
© Provided by Firstpost IPL 2022: Amidst carnage and dew, how bowlers can fight back and keep batters in check

On Sunday night, Punjab Kings chased down 206 against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the DY Patil Stadium with an over to spare. At that point, it was the joint fifth-highest target ever chased in Indian Premier League (IPL) history (Punjab themselves had chased 206 twice before, both in 2014).

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Now, after Thursday night, 206 slipped a place, for Lucknow Super Giants — one of IPL’s two new teams this season — chased down 211 with three balls to spare at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai against a Chennai Super Kings attack that consisted of Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Moeen Ali, and Dwaine Pretorius.

Even if one brushes off the two big chases, it cannot be ignored that the team batting second has won the match six out of seven times so far (though, to be fair, two of them were low-scoring matches). If flat pitches and short boundaries were not enough, the dew makes it difficult for spinners to grip in the second innings.

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One may argue that Chennai’s defeat had more to do with dew than any other reason. Jadeja and Moeen, the Chennai spinners, bowled three harmless, expensive overs between them. And with 34 to defend from two overs, Jadeja had little option but to use the innocuous medium pace of Shivam Dube the 19th over: he went for 25, and the match was sealed.

The onslaught came from Evin Lewis, who was batting in an uncharacteristic position, outside the Powerplay. Lewis strikes at 146 in all T20s and 156 in T20Is, but a chunk of his runs has come from playing his shots when the field was inside. On Thursday, the field was spread out, but Lewis did not take time to find the gaps or clear the short boundary, particularly straight down the ground.

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Lewis’ end-of-innings savagery was supported by Deepak Hooda and the ever-improving Ayush Badoni. Before that, KL Rahul and Quinton de Kock had added 55/0 in the Powerplay overs.

But the Lucknow bowlers fared little better. In fact, Robin Uthappa and Moeen had taken Chennai to 73/1 in the Powerplay earlier in the evening. Dube then blazed away in the middle overs, while Jadeja and MS Dhoni played some delightful strokes.

However, amidst the carnage on a night dominated almost entirely by bat, there were two phases during which the bowlers had a say.

Amidst the Uthappa-Moeen onslaught, Rahul waited for an over after the Powerplay to bring Ravi Bishnoi on. Bishnoi decided to bowl the fast, skiddy ball on the pad; followed it with one outside off; and repeated the first ball. This time he pinned Uthappa leg-before, although it took a referral.

Jadeja promoted Dube ahead of Ambati Rayudu. The idea was clear. The Lucknow pacers had not posed any problem until then. Bishnoi was the main threat, so why not counter him with two left-handers? It certainly seemed to work when Dube hit three fours at the other end, off Dushmantha Chameera.

Bishnoi began his second over with a googly against Moeen. The dew had probably not taken its full effect, so there was more turn than Moeen had anticipated. He edged the cover-drive… and yet, there was no slip, and he conceded a boundary instead. Despite inducing a rare, invaluable edge of a set batter, Bishnoi’s figures stood at 1.1-0-9-1; it could easily have been 1.1-0-5-2.

At this point some bowlers would have tried a variation, but Bishnoi backed his googly: what if it worked again? He continued to bowl it, and produced arguably the best over of the day. He beat Moeen’s bat, found the edge again, and beat the bat yet again. He was almost turning the ball across the left-hander like an off-spinner.

Moeen fell to Avesh Khan in the next over, but Bishnoi did not abandon his strategy of using the googly as the stock delivery. Rayudu picked up a boundary past cover, but despite that, Bishnoi’s figures stood at 3-0-18-1. He had helped restrict Chennai to 45 in the first six overs after the Powerplay.

Rahul took him off, which enabled Chennai to attack from both ends. The next four overs went for 44, so Rahul decided to use his final over. Rayudu, well set and gearing for the final onslaught, went for a slog sweep — and found four leg byes instead. He tried an encore next ball and lost his leg stump.

Bishnoi finished with 4-0-24-2 on a day none of his teammates went for under 9.5 an over. On a night when the margin of error was bare minimum, Bishnoi kept a line-up quiet through his control of line, length, flight, and turn, backing his googly, using the ‘skiddy’ ball generously.

Chennai had their phase of triumph too. Lucknow were 51/0 after five overs. Bravo began the sixth over of the innings with a yorker wide off-stump to de Kock. It was a risk, for despite a packed off-side field, there could be only two fielders outside the circle.

It required control to execute, but Bravo was up to the task. The first five balls were either full or yorkers outside off. They yielded three runs and a dropped catch, and Bravo ended up conceding four in a Powerplay over with an asking rate above ten.

Jadeja then sneaked in three overs of spin from Moeen and himself. After nine overs, Lucknow had reached 90/0. De Kock had raced to 48 from 32 balls.

And Bravo returned with the same strategy as before. There was little de Kock could do against the wide yorkers – Bravo did not mind conceding even the occasional wide – but run singles. At the other end, Pretorius got Rahul, then mirrored the wide-yorker strategy against Manish Pandey. And to de Kock, Pretorius came round the wicket, pitching it up, often taking the pace off the ball.

Sure enough, a desperate de Kock went for a slog and lost his wicket. His last 13 balls had yielded just 13 runs.

In a match where bat had the say all night, intelligent, accurate bowling helped the hapless bowlers pulled things back in each innings.

Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketNews and co-author of Sachin and Azhar at Cape Town.

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