Pollard kept quiet; Shokeen stays unfazed & Sams finally gets it right after a howler start

The plan of Lucknow Super Giants’ seamers to keep Kieron Pollard quiet was simple—just bang it in short at his body. Preferably landing on off-stump and rearing into his rib cage. The ball blindsides him and the burly Trinidadian gets himself into a knot. Hook was seldom his favorite stroke; the pull is no longer his favorite either. So whenever the ball is pinged short, he either sways away from it or nudges for a single. There is a caveat though– the short-balls have to be really quick. Anything medium pace or too short, he is still good enough to smear those into the stands, as Mohsin Khan realised in the 17th over. But Dusmantha Chameera was masterful. The Lankan quick was fast, aggressive and at-his-rib-cage, like the heyday Caribbean quicks. He hustled, harried and harassed him. Pollard tried to shuffle across and dab it behind the keeper, but the ball was so quick (146kph) that he ended up taking evasive action. After a while, he would just hang back in anticipation of the short-ball barrage. That’s when they altered their plans. For the 19th over, Chameera went around the wicket and slanted the ball across, alternating between short-of-length and good length. Pollard just kept swiping futilely, eking out just a couple of runs. The five-run over practically ended all hopes of Mumbai opening their account this season.

Shokeen, not stirred

Mumbai Indians off-spinner Hrithik Shokeen is 21. He looks 16, with not even a faint outline of a moustache and a high school boy’s quiff. He ambled in as early as the second over—even the batsman he bowled to, KL Rahul, seemed genuinely surprised by the tactic, and looked to gauge him before he began to line him up. Shokeeen, though, was unfazed by the occasion, more so for someone playing his second competitive match ever. The first three balls were fast and full into his body, Rahul could only but defend. The fourth ball, Rahul tried to make room, but Shokeen smartly followed him and turned one back into his body. The next ball though, he changed his line of attack, going around the wicket. The move gave Rahul the freedom to swing down the pitch, which he did and struck a four. Shokeen kept his nerves, he went more round arm and hurled the ball into Rahul’s pads. Another dot ball, the fifth of the over and Shookeen did a small fist pump. Not a bad start for Shokeen.

Rohit, the natural animated actor

Rohit Sharma was a riot of emotions. He was over-jubilant when celebrating wickets, leaping and punching the air, a la Virat Kohli, screaming and scowling. He was agitated when bowlers erred in length. When Daniel Sams kept fluffing the line, conceding four wide balls in an over, he spoke animatedly at him. When the fielders erred in the deep, or missed narrow direct hits, he would wildly gesticulate at them and blow his cheeks in exasperation. Even wicket-keeper Ishan Kishan was not spared, when he could not stop a ball (a really wide ball at that, almost towards the vacant first slip). Rohit himself was more energetic than usual, rather vintage Rohit, flinging and hurling his body around at backward point to thwart runs. Between deliveries, he would make the bowler know his impression of the previous ball. Sometimes, he would clap joyously. Sometimes, he would clap sarcastically. Often, when in dilemma, he would stroke his stubbled-chin like a philosopher. In short, Rohit showed he could make a career in acting too. The expressions were so natural, almost instinctive.

The Sams total of it

Daniel Sams, the Mumbai Indians fast bowler, had the right idea to keep KL Rahul quiet or at least make him work for the boundaries. Sams was going for the full and wide ball with the aim of getting Rahul to reach out and slice it in the air. The problem was he had only one plan, which had a zero margin for error. And he kept getting it wrong but kept going back to Plan A. Try as he did to get it within the tramline, a marker for the wide, he was inches off. After targeting the stumps and getting hit for a six, Sams tried three full and wide balls. But the umpire signaled the extras. He even attempted a slower one, hoping for Rahul to mis-hit. The second legal delivery was within the tramline but Rahul got hold of it and crashed it for a six over backward point. Sams was low on confidence. But after conceding 15 by the time he completed his first two legal deliveries, he conceded just three runs in the next four. He also got a lucky break in the form of the wicket of hard-hitting Marcus Stoinis. The batsman’s eye lit up when he saw the slow bouncer, but he made contact when the ball was rising at chest height and found the fielder in the deep. Captain Rohit Sharma’s scowl disappeared and Sams was even having a laugh at the end of the over. Even bad overs can have a silver lining in this format with batsmen always looking to attack.

Kishan’s luck runs out

In his 20-ball ordeal, Ishan Kishan would have been out at least five times. He repeatedly played (flayed) and missed, his shoulder was battered by a Dusmanta Chameera bouncer, he survived lbw shouts, run outs and caught-behind appeals. It seemed one of those nights he would somehow survive and then suddenly rediscover the destructive touch. Instead, he perished fortuitously. Ravi Bishnoi’s googly was so wide that had he left the ball, it would have gone to the bucket-hands of Jason Holder at first slip. But Kishan reached for the ball, his feet crease-glued and his upper body completely out of balance. It could go into the coaching manual of how not to play a cut shot. He eventually under-edged, and with a bit of luck, he could have survived. Wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock, himself stretching to gather the ball, was in no position to pluck the edge that was dying onto his feet. But the feet came to his rescue. The edged ball plunged onto his boot and bounced into the palms of Holder. The Bajan almost made a meal of it, but somehow clung on. And thus Kishan’s luck ran out. Rather, his torment was over.

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