IPL high five: Week 2

Style, substance and spirit mark this week’s top picks

Mumbai 18 April 2012
It’s been a big week for the batsmen. While Jamaican powerhouse Chris Gayle showed how a game can be dominated with brute force, Rajasthan Royals’ Ajinkya Rahane proved that technique and temperament can equally win results. In true IPL spirit, there’s also a South African and Australian presence in this week’s roll of honour while KKR’s Sunil Narine is the lone bowler to make our list. Dive into the week’s best offerings.

Albie’s cameo

Chennai Super Kings v Royal Challengers Bangalore – April 12, 2012

Out of 15 instances in the history of the IPL, a team had chased down a target in excess of 206 only once. Heading into the run chase, CSK would have known they were in for a stiff task against RCB.

The defending champions were given a platform from which to pursue the run chase by Faf du Plessis who scored a measured 71 at the top of the innings. And when Albie Morkel walked out to bat at No. 6, his team needed 43 from the last two overs.

Despite the dice heavily loaded against them, Morkel showed why the new-age cricketer thinks no target is impossible to achieve. Taking stance against Virat Kohli (who bowled the 19th over), the South African exploded from the word go; his scoring shots in the over read 4 (inside edge to fine-leg), 6 (over long on), 4 (outside edge to third man), 6 (over long on), 2 (down the ground to long on) and 6 (over long on).

From needing 43 off 12, the equation had come down to an achievable 15 off the last over. Though Morkel was dismissed off the second ball of the last over, the damage was done; he’d scored 28 off seven balls at a strike-rate of 400. Chennai Super Kings would go on to win a thriller off the last ball.

Livewire Smith

Pune Warriors India v Chennai Super Kings – April 14, 2012

Sourav Ganguly’s Pune Warriors India had done reasonably well in the first half of their home fixture against defending champions Chennai Super Kings by restricting the visitors to 155 for five.

Needing a competitive 156 to win, the hosts were well in control of the run chase with the explosive opener Jesse Ryder holding firm at one end. After a string of quiet overs around the halfway stage, and with the required rate mounting, Marlon Samuels perished in the 13th over, leaving his team to score 66 from 7.2 overs.

Another couple of quiet overs could have turned the balance in favour of the visitors, but the diminutive Steven Smith did not allow that to happen. Smith’s first scoring shot was a six over midwicket, which sent a loud message to the opponents. He then played himself in by rotating the strike, and as the required run-rate inched towards the 12-run mark, he hit top gear. Dispatching Dwayne Bravo for a six and a four off consecutive deliveries, he then dispatched Nuwan Kulasekara for boundaries off consecutive deliveries.

The New South Wales lad finished off the run chase in style as he hit Yo Mahesh for a boundary off the first ball of the final over, and then sent him over the ropes at sweeper cover. He’d scored 44 off 22 balls in an innings that contained three hits to the fence and as many over it.

Narine’s bagful of tricks

Kolkata Knight Riders v Kings XI Punjab – April 15, 2012

Sunil Narine came into IPL 2012 with the reputation of being a mystery spinner. Despite all the technical and video aids available to contemporary batsmen, it’s quite something that he outsmarts batsmen regularly – just like he did against Kings XI Punjab recently.

Making the most of the spin-friendly surface at the Eden Gardens, Narine foxed five KXIP batsmen, including the Australian duo of Adam Gilchrist and Shaun Marsh. Deceiving Gilchrist with flight and bounce, he had the veteran top-edge a pull to cover; Marsh, meanwhile, was foxed by the knuckle ball. The southpaw played for the off-break only to find the ball straighten and sneak in through the gap between bat and pad and crash into the stumps.

Narine produced yet another outstanding delivery to get rid of Praveen Kumar the first ball the latter faced; the ball pitched on middle, straightened and beat the bat. The ball went past the outside edge of his bat and disturbed the off stump just enough to dislodge the bail.

Narine finished his four-over spell with impressive numbers. His spell had 13 dot balls, he conceded only 19 runs (which included one six), picked up five wickets and walked away with the Man-of-the-Match award despite KKR narrowly losing the game.

Rahane, the centurion

Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore – April 15, 2012

The general impression prior to IPL 2012 was that Ajinkya Rahane was a batsman in the classical mould, best suited to the longer version of the game. The Mumbai lad first gave glimpses of what he was capable of when he scored 61 on International Twenty20 debut against England last year.

The 23-year-old only seems to have become stronger at his game following that stint with the Indian team. Playing alongside his idol Rahul Dravid, Rahane has taken his game several notches higher; he is, perhaps, the best player in the competition at the moment.

The Rajasthan Royals batsman became the first centurion in the IPL 2012 when he scored an unbeaten 103 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Rahane’s knock was all about timing, placement and precise footwork – one of the most technically correct innings in Twenty20 cricket. 73 off his 103 runs came in front of the wicket – 44 of them in the arc between mid on and mid off.

Gayle’s high five

Royal Challengers Bangalore v Pune Warriors India – April 17, 2012

Despite needing 107 off the final eight overs in their home fixture against Pune Warriors India, RCB would have known they were very much in the contest. After all, the dangerous Chris Gayle was still out there. It was just a matter of a good over or two.

The 13th over, bowled by Rahul Sharma, was just what Gayle and RCB were looking for. Gayle, who had scored 41 off 36 balls at that point, got stuck into the Pune Warriors India leg-spinner and took him apart to change the game within moments. After Saurabh Tiwary had taken a single off the first ball of the over, Gayle hit the second ball into the stands over long-off. The third delivery sailed over the ropes at midwicket, the fourth delivery traveled like a missile over the bowler’s head, the fifth ball settled in the middle of the people in the stands beyond long-on, and the final delivery travelled over the midwicket boundary.

Gayle had scored 81 (off 48 balls) through sheer force before being cleaned up by an Ashish Nehra yorker. The Caribbean powerhouse had brought his team to the brink of a famous victory that Tiwary fittingly completed off a last-ball six.
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