GT vs RR: Miller launches Gujarat to final, Saha falls for Eden temptation & Sublime Samson hits “ramani” shot

It’s a story that his father Andrew has often told about David Miller. How he knew when David was just two years old that he would one day play for South Africa. Andrew had bought a golf set and rolled a plastic ball towards his kid. The kid whacked it back. The father rolled it again. Whack again. Andrew turns to his wife and proclaims David would one day play for the country. When South Africa didn’t pick him up for the 2011 world cup, a dejected Miller would be revived by the trusted IPL franchises showed on him. First it was Kings XI Punjab, and these days its Gujarat Lions. This season he has been explosive, and in the play off, needing 16 runs in the last over, he smashed Prasidh Krishna for 3 consecutive sixes off the first three balls to seal the deal. An emotional captain Hardik Pandya enveloped him with a long bear hug. On air, Nayan Mongia would scream, “Saakshaat pranaam Miller ma!”

Long hop, long face, but a surprise awaited McCoy

So disappointed was he after bowling a long-hop that Obed McCoy put his head down and started to trudge back. He had seen Matthew Wade swivel into a crunching pull and thought he had seen enough. So sure was he that it was sailing for a six, that he had begun to walk back towards his run-up area. Perhaps, it was the noise from the crowd that started him into take a look behind his shoulder and he couldn’t believe what he saw: his team-mates celebrating a catch by Jos Butler at deep midwicket. A sheepish smile spread across his face, and he put his head down on the shoulder of his captain Sanju Samson, who too had an amused expression. It used to be said that Ian Botham had a great knack of taking wickets off long-hops, with Greg Chappell his famous victim on more than one occasion. Unlike McCoy, Botham of course never was surprised that his rank bad balls had taken a wicket.

So disappointed was he after bowling a long-hop that Obed McCoy put his head down and started to trudge back. (Twitter)

Admiration becomes agony

Ravi Ashwin is a self-confessed Shubman Gill admirer. He once revealed how he became a Gill fan. “In the Melbourne Test, Cameron Green was caught at square leg off a pull and Shubman came running to me and said, “Ash bhai, Jaldi khatam kar do yaar! 40-50 runs hoga toh mein paanch over mein khatam karoonga! (Please wrap up quickly. If it’s 40-50 runs to chase, I will do it in five overs!),” Ashwin recalled in a conversation with India batting coach Vikram Rathour on his Youtube channel. “I was like, ‘wow, this is unreal man’. We have a debutant who is walking up to say ‘khatam karo, finish it’ and I will finish in five overs and that too in a Test match,” Ashwin said. But at the Eden Gardens, the admiration might have turned into agony, as Gill carved into Ashwin, shellacking him for 15 runs in six balls. First came a gorgeous six. Gill stepped out, then paused, dragged his back-foot over to go inside-out and just breezed the masterful spinner’s carrom ball over extra cover. The stroke dishevelled the usually unflappable Ashwin, whose next ball was fast, short and wide, which Gill duly cut. The next ball slipped out of his and turned out into a leg-side half-volley that Gill whipped through square-leg. Ashwin was so flustered that he pulled off his run-up twice before the next ball.

Saha falls for Eden temptation

Wriddhiman Saha has had an interesting few months. Strong tweets that led to an enquiry, strong statements that had him openly take on a few voices in his home association of Cricket Association of Bengal, and a day before the playoff, he had said another eyebrow-raising remark. “Here, I’m representing Gujarat so my home ground is Motera Stadium, I believe in that. Since I’m no longer with KKR, the Eden is not my home,” he had said. Not sure how it was taken by the Eden faithful but he didn’t last long as batsman to find out. Trent Boult took him out second ball with an angler that Saha thought would come back in, and tried to force it to the on side. But it kept slanting away to take the outside edge.

Fan jumps fence at Eden

The Eden Gardens bubble had a close shave. As Shimron Hetmyer perished to Mohammed Shami and admonished himself, a fan jumped the fence from D Block and was about to enter the field of play, when he was intercepted by the police. Kolkata responded to an IPL game at Eden after two years with fervour. Around 8pm, attendence was 47,000. About an hour later, it crossed 60,000. Authorities had allowed a 100 per cent turnout for the IPL playoffs and it made the atmosphere super-charged. An idiot crossed the line, giving complete disregard to the bio-secure environment. Thankfully, the minions of the law were alert and the offender was ejected.

Rashid, master of disguise and deception

Jos Buttler stood stupefied. He, like the world, has gotten used to playing Rashid Khan. Yet, no one could claim that he has really mastered him. Rashid continues to evoke shock and awe. Like the leg-break that left Buttler clueless. The ball fizzed out from his pliant palm, whistled into Buttler a trifle and began its downward plunge. Buttler judged it was the wrong’un, Rashid’s T20 staple. Buttler hung back so that he could work the ball through the leg-side. But the ball, after landing, spun away deviously. He was so stunned that he had no time to change his stroke, as the ball spun across him and past the outside edge. The deception lies in Rashid’s disguise. There is hardly any change in the run-up, action, the release point or the wrist position. He bowls both deliveries with the back of the hand open upwards, towards the sky—for most leg-breakers, the back of the hand faces the bowler himself when flipping the googlies. Combined with his arm-rotation speed and how rapidly he brings his wrists down, it’s difficult to conclusively decode him.

After a while, batsmen did begin to pick a clue or two by watching his grip. Split-finger grip for leg-breaks and a fingers-together grip for the googly. However, Rashid, crafty as he is, began to change his grip just before the load-up. So he might begin with a split-finger grip and then suddenly, with the dexterity of a tabla maestro, flips his fingers and changes the grip. The unsuspecting batsman, deluded by the early giveaway, waits for a leg-break, only to be left ashen-faced by the ball spitting away. And the other way around as well. He bowls the leg-breaks sparingly, but when he does, it leaves batsmen stupefied.

Sublime Samson hits a “ramani” shot!

It was a most sublime six. The context elevated it even more. Sanju Samson would have seen the young left-handed swinger Yash Dayal bend the ball both ways in his first over to continually harass and dismiss Yash Jaiswal. Samson would face his first ball, in the next over from Dayal. It was a very good delivery too, swinging away from Samson but starting from around leg stump line. The choice of ball, if intentional, was good. Samson does have a tendency to back himself and go for the risky swipe occasionally. But this time, Samson treated it so softly that it’s worth catching the replays just to watch his hands. It was just a waft on the up, covering for the movement, and aimed over mid-on. The white ball kept flying beyond long-on. Even the (cutely) parochial Gujarati commentators on Hotstar were moved to rave: “Ramani shot”! It certainly was gorgeous, allright.

No wonder the likes of Brian Lara have been a big fans of Samson over the past couple of years. Of the right-handed batsmen out there, Samson must rate pretty much at the top for his silken touches. Usually we have seen such batsmen thread the gaps for fours but Samson, like Lara himself to an extent, can let his hands go through the line of the ball to fetch maximums.
He unfurled more lovely shots before he fell, going across the line to the left-arm spinner Sai Kishore, who has been impressively aggressively in his bowling in the couple of games he has played, and holing out to long-on.

Rd 1 to Buttler

Jos Buttler left the first ball he faced alone. The Mohammed Shami ball was a tempter, good length, pitched outside the off-stump and shaping away a bit. Often in the past, he has lunged at the ball, hands away and stabbing than coming through with the shot. But Buttler, these days, is more watchful. Moreover, runs have dried up in the last few games (63 runs in five games). Shami pitched the next ball further up, to tempt him to that loose drive even more. This time, he fell for the lure, only that he caressed rather than crashed it through the cover, a stroke that had none of Buttler’s trademark power and panache. Unlike how the purists essay the stroke, the front-elbow is rather low, he is less in control when the elbow gets higher. Shami didn’t flinch, he smiled dryly and then served him another full ball. Butler again shouldered arms. Shami galloped back and speared in another full ball. Buttler just extended his front foot and cajoled the ball past mid-off. Shami returned for another over, and the cat and mouse game continued. Buttler defended the first ball, manoeuvred him for a brace the next ball, before Shami produced a jaffa that beat him outside edge. Buttler put that behind with a crunching cover drive next ball. Shami pulled his length back, beat him next ball and induced a thin edge the last ball. But the first bout, riveting stuff as it was, belonged to the calculated Buttler rather than the probing Shami.


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