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Mumbai Indians keep ‘Ismailing’ courtesy of Shabnim's powerplay brilliance

Last updated on 25 Feb 2024 | 05:53 PM
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Mumbai Indians keep ‘Ismailing’ courtesy of Shabnim's powerplay brilliance

The Proteas speed [Mc]Queen ended with figures of 3 for 18 and broke the back of Gujarat's batting

She may have retired from international cricket last year. She might have only bowled 63 balls in the last WPL. 

But Shabnim Ismail is still running hard. She’s still taking that big jump right before approaching the crease. She is still delivering with a high-arm action. She is still bowling thunderbolts, and she is still obliterating the stumps. 

Ask Shafali Verma. Saika Ishaque didn’t allow her a boundary through the packed off-side field in the second over during the season opener, so she moved away to make room and hit Ismail above the infield on the off-side. But before she could even bring her bat down, the ball had thudded into her stumps. The zing stumps lit up like lightning in response to Ismail’s thunder. 

After that, it took quite a circumspect batting display from Meg Lanning and Alice Capsey to prevent Ismail from repeating the carnage. The Proteas speed [Mc]Queen ended with figures of 1 for 24 in an innings where the opposition scored at the rate of 8.55 runs/over.

Her start in the second game was even more explosive, albeit without the shattering of stumps. This time, in the powerplay, she floored the batters with sharp seam movement and then with change of pace later in the innings. 

The key amidst all this, for Ismail, has been her length. Look at the pitch map below. She has zeroed-in on that good length delivery in the powerplay and has relied on her ability to use the ball's seam and move it around. 

What makes her even more lethal is that most of these deliveries go on to hit the stumps. So, even if the batter manages to keep the delivery out, they’ll find it hard to score as there’s hardly any room on offer. And if batters try to create room, the result, more often than not, is similar to Shafali’s obliteration. 

Today, she pinned Veda Krishnamurthy’s leg before the wickets and repeated the honours with Harleen Deol. Both deliveries were quick, bowled between 115 and 120 kmph, and came in after pitching to hit both the batters in line of the stumps. Talk about classic lethal power play pace bowling!

“The wicket was much skier tonight, but there was movement. So I decided to bowl a little fuller,” she said after the match. 

Since 2021, in all the T20 games she has played, Ismail averages just 20.4 and strikes at 23.8 in the powerplay. She not only got 28 wickets but conceded runs at only 5.2 runs/over. That’s an excellent record to have in the format for any bowler. 

Moreover, when you add the context of her impact for the Proteas (in the 2023 T20 World Cup at home for instance) in this phase, it won’t be wrong to conclude that Mumbai Indians made the buy of this year’s auction. 

Once the initial few wickets fall, the MI spinners come into play right away, as Hayley Matthews, Amelia Kerr and Keerthana Balakrishnan then enticed the batters to go for the big shots. Even today, after Ismail picked two and Nat Sciver Brunt got one in the powerplay, Matthews and Kerr combined to pick up the rest of the batters. 

Ismail returned to dismiss Gujarat’s skipper Beth Mooney with a slower cutter, just to show that she still hasn’t forgotten to bowl her variations. In the end, her 18 runs for three wickets in the game were too damaging for the Giants as they folded for 126 for 9 in their 20 overs. The story would have been even dire if not for Kathryn Bryce and Tanuja Kanwer’s late fight. 

While chasing, Harmanpreet Kaur’s 46 off 41 deliveries was enough to get them over the line with five wickets in hand and 11 deliveries remaining. 

Last season, Ismail warmed the bench for the UP Warriorz, as she played just three games and bowled 10.3 overs. This season, she has already breached that 120 kmph barrier with ease, and when Mel Jones asked her if she is looking to break the 130 kmph barrier this season, she just said, “Definitely yes!” 

As of now, her four wickets so far don't feel like a mere beginning of a great season. You can see the hunger in her eyes to keep performing, and she revealed in the post match interaction that she has done a lot of hard work to prepare herself for this season. 

“I went back to Cape Town worked with my bowling coach on the shape of the ball to start getting some swing. Happy it worked out. I am still working as hard as I can, I want to be the quickest in the world, working on hitting 130 clicks to contribute to my team. I have worked a lot (on getting swing) and am happy that I could do that today.”

One thing is sure after a performance like this. It would be hard for opposition to stop MI from ‘Ismailing’ this season. 

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