14th OCTOBER, 1ST BALL OF THE MATCH
Jofra Archer ambles in and unleashes a rocket. His delivery lands on the seam, just short of a length, jags back and castles Prithvi Shaw, India’s big hope for the future.
A decisive blow as the Royals right at the onset had pushed back the Delhi Capitals. Shaw gives them the ammunition at the top. When he gets it right, he is a sight to savour. Shaw’s feet do not move much but the hands and his bat work frenetically in getting the scoreboard moving. It wasn’t to be, as the man from Barbados had bossed him. Shaw’s feet as expected had not gone anywhere and Archer’s missile had disturbed the woodwork. As the cameras zoomed in onto the face of the opener, there was a story to be told. It was a kind of acknowledgement that Shaw had been done in by a man at the height of his prowess.
Archer’s opening spells have been sensational in this year’s IPL. They have been fast, hostile and laser-guided. Rarely have the best in the business had the skill to score consistently of him in those initial overs. The lengths have been spot on and the bounce he has extracted has made a few hop around that batting crease.
What remains an exceptional aspect of his game is his approach to the crease and then the release. This summer as cricket in whites resumed in the UK, Archer’s short ball was once again the talking point, it came out of nowhere and even set batsmen were falling prey to that delivery. The broadcasters did a brilliant piece of analysis on Archer’s action. On a three-window split, they had the bouncer and two normal deliveries. The question on hand, could one differentiate the release of the short ball from the two other deliveries? There was absolutely nothing to choose from.
It’s now become the norm, Archer has thunderbolts of different lengths at his disposal and they come without a warning.
14TH OCTOBER, THE CHASE, 3RD OVER
As Anrich Nortje ran in to bowl the 3rd over of the chase, the Royals thanks to their two superstars at the top of the order, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler had galloped to 21 after the first two overs.
Chasing 162, Steve Smith’s side couldn’t have asked for a better start.
Nortje’s first ball clocked 148 km/hr and Buttler effortlessly deposited that over long-on. The South African though was in no mood to step back as his next two deliveries touched speeds of 152.3 and 152.1 km/hr. The mercury was rising!
His next two balls were brilliantly ramped over short fine leg by Buttler. It was a statement of arrogance issued by one of the most destructive top-order white-ball players in the game. Nortje had been attacking the stumps with pace and the Englishman had been toying with his length, and then finally, came the last ball, at 155.4 km/hr, and Buttler’s middle stump was dismantled!
Mark Nicholas on commentary said “Nortje rarely moves away from his plans." Even if he is being targeted, the young South African has always shown the ability to stick to his line of thought. In the cauldron of high-pressure T20 games, staying unmoved from the mayhem that is threatening to engulf you, has to be a special trait that one possesses.
With 29 to get off 3 overs, it was Nortje’s 18th over, that punctured the chase for the Royals. He conceded just four runs and removed the settled Robin Uthappa. As it has been for him throughout this tournament, it isn’t just about the new ball, it also is about providing control in the death.
Eleven nights ago, England’s captain Eoin Morgan was threatening to take the game away from the Capitals. With fifty-four needed from three overs, Morgan plundered Kagiso Rabada for three consecutive sixes. Kolkata Knight Riders needed 31 of the last 2 overs. This was gettable on a Sharjah surface. Once again though Nortje showed composure in not only giving away just 5 runs but also accounting for Morgan. There were full-tosses and hard lengths but the decisive factor that there hardly was any room to free one’s arms.
Rabada remains the poster boy of the Capitals' pace attack but credit also needs to go to his deputy. It’s not just about pace, it’s also about maintaining one’s composure and sticking to your plan!