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When the hammer came down on Delhi Daredevils’ bid for Kevin Pietersen, the franchise owners must have been glad that they signed on one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world. However, the team hadn’t realised too many runs from the 33-year-old in the first three weeks of the season. However, in DD’s match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, the South African-born Englishman took the aggressive way to get out of the rut – he walked out to open the innings and played some stunning shots. His square drive, which is considered to be one of the toughest shots to play, and his two sixes straight down the ground – one off Karn Sharma and the other off Moises Henriques – stood out. Those shots were indicative of the fact that KP had rediscovered his form. Here’s hoping he will be able to light up the scoreboard and entertain the usually-packed M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru when DD take on RCB later this week.
In the past three seasons, Chris Gayle has scored a mountain of runs for RCB and was expected to do the same again in Pepsi IPL 2014. However, RCB suffered a big blow when he suffered an injury in the days leading up to the competition and had to miss out the first few matches. On his return to the side, the Jamaican played the big shots he was expected to, but unlike previous season, his knocks remained cameos. He has scored 108 runs in his first five outings – 90 of them coming through hits to the fence – but his best effort remains a 38. With RCB falling behind in the race for the Playoffs, it is about time Gayle started piling on the runs. And the match against the Delhi Daredevils later this week might just be a good time to start.
After a wretched start to Pepsi IPL 2014 – where he scored just one run from four innings – Gautam Gambhir seems to have turned a corner. Since the birth of his daughter – which he thinks has brought him a lot of luck – the Kolkata Knight Riders captain has posted three half-centuries in three innings. He has shown an inclination to bat longer – he has batted well into the second-half of the innings – and has scored at a fair clip too. Having sailed through the tough times, Gambhir will know – given all the experience behind him – that it’s best to make merry when in form. KKR are locked in a mid-table battle with several other teams, and given the kind of individual he is known to be – a fierce competitor, focused and intense – expect him lead from the front in his team’s matches against the Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad in the coming week.
He has lost a lot of weight, appears lean and fit, has spent hours working on his batting with his personal batting coach, and is reaping the rewards now. Robin Uthappa, one half of Kolkata Knight Riders’ successful opening pair, is possibly playing his best cricket currently. He still has the tendency to walk across the stumps occasionally, but he’s batted with very good balance in recent times, and has hit the ball sweetly. The 28-year-old finds himself in a good space; he’s scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket, his state team, Karnataka, won most of the major domestic cricket titles in the season gone by, and it is showing off in his batting. In the coming week, he will be pitted against the Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
In T20 cricket, batsmen always wait for that one moment to pounce on one bowler in the opposition’s attack. In Kings XI Punjab’s away match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, there was a fear that the weak link in the attack would be the four overs of debutant Shivam Sharma. The 20-year-old off-spinner, who was unheard of, was introduced into the attack in the seventh over of RCB’s run-chase with the dangerous AB de Villiers and Yuvraj Singh at the crease. Not influenced by the presence of the two destructive batsmen and not bogged down by a very vocal crowd supporting the home team, the Delhi lad concentrated on doing the basics right, kept bowling in the right areas and returned with impressive figures of 4-0-26-2. The two batsmen he dismissed were Yuvraj Singh and Albie Morkel.
Piyush Chawla | 3/19 v KXIP
No batting line-up has done more damage so far this season than that of Kings XI Punjab. However, one bowler has held his own in both his team’s matches against the table-toppers. 25-year-old Kolkata Knight Riders leg-spinner Piyush Chawla finished with identical figures of 4-0-19-3 in his two matches against KXIP. Not only did he keep the runs down, he got the big wickets too. In the second outing against KXIP in Cuttack on Sunday, he struck in his first over when he had the dangerous Glenn Maxwell caught at deep square-leg. He then fired in a quicker delivery, which a well-set Virender Sehwag didn’t pick and played back onto his stumps. KKR will thank Chawla for the timely dismissal of Sehwag, in the 15th over. The dashing opener was well-set on 72 and looked good to cut loose. That dismissal derailed KXIP in the final stages of their innings – they added only 37 runs in the final 5.3 overs, finishing around 20 runs short of what they’d have desired at the start of the match. Chawla – who did not concede a single boundary despite bowling to the most destructive batting line-up in the competition – signed off in style, castling Rishi Dhawan with the final delivery of his spell.
Yuzvendra Chahal | 1/24 v RR
The Rajasthan Royals pulled off a heist when they chased down 191 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore from what looked like an improbable position. However, on a high-scoring surface, one bowler’s performance stood out. Yuzvendra Chahal was brought in to bowl in the eighth over of the innings and he struck with his first delivery when he had a well-set Ajinkya Rahane caught behind. He generally concentrated on an area just outside the off-stump and didn’t give the batsmen too much room to play with. The discipline he showed, coupled with the ability to get the ball to skid off the track meant the RR batsmen found him very difficult to score off. He bowled overs 8, 10, 12 and 16, yet conceded only 24 runs. That the next best economy-rate in the RCB bowling attack was Yuvraj Singh’s (8.75), puts the young leg-spinner’s outstanding performance in perspective.
Steve Smith | 48* (21 balls) v RCB
Rajasthan Royals pulled off an unlikely win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore when they chased down 191 after being reduced to 106 for five in the 14th over. Much of the credit for that win must go to Steve Smith who put the run-chase on track with a blitzkrieg that lasted till the end. There were all the characteristics of a typical Steve Smith knock; he was moving all over the crease, he outwitted the bowler at the very last second, he played the cheeky shots and he ran like a hare. The first signs that he hadn’t given up on the chase yet came in the 15th over when he hit Varun Aaron for two boundaries and a six. Ashok Dinda was deposited twice into the stands straight down the ground and was picked for two boundaries in the 18th over. RR at one stage needed 65 from the final four overs, but Smith and James Faulkner – who matched him stroke-for-stroke – made light work of the chase as RR romped past the finish line with seven balls to spare.
Kevin Pietersen | 35 (19 balls) v SRH
Delhi Daredevils captain Kevin Pietersen certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the first few weeks of Pepsi IPL 2014. An injury to his hand forced him to warm the benches in the first few matches, and when he returned to the side, he seemed like a shadow of the match-winner he was expected to be. In the match against the Kolkata Knight Riders, he appeared to be completely out of place, struggling for timing and finding it difficult to get the ball away square of the wicket. In a bid to get moving, he attempted a non-existent single and ran himself out. In times when form deserts them, batsmen usually slip down the batting order and let the men in form take charge. Not KP, who walked out to open innings in DD’s match against Sunrisers Hyderabad. And he played the kind of knock that was expected off him. He scored only 35 runs, but the manner in which he scored those runs was enough to suggest he had rediscovered his touch. He was quick on his feet and was quick to pick his spots too. He hit two sixes and four fours, and all – barring one – came off the middle of his bat. His cameo was cut short when he attempted to hit Amit Mishra over cover, but didn’t get enough elevation and holed out to the man in the circle. But sufficed to say that KP has finally arrived!