In the spectrum of fame, AB de Villiers and Harshal Patel are at diametrically opposite ends. De Villiers’ has travelled across the cricketing globe; Patel is not-so-famous beyond the domestic circuit. But the twain met in the IPL opener against Mumbai Indians — Patel grabbed five wickets, all coming in the last five overs to restrict Mumbai to 159, before de Villiers stroked 47 off 28 balls to keep Bangalore in the chase. Though he departed on the fourth ball of the last over, Bangalore held on with Patel at the crease when the final run was made.
Patel is an unusual death-over persecutor. His pace hardly rattles — the effort balls nudge mid-130kph. His variations barely befuddle — the staple cutters and a yorker. His reputation hardly daunts — most noted for the swerving out-swingers he doles out in seamer-friendly Lahli.
But the unlikeliest of death-overs hangmen, the most nondescript of IPL cricketers, having featured in only 18 games over the last five seasons, felled the five-time champions. The well-worn David slaying Goliath script played out with a mischievous smirk on the opening day of IPL-14.
The night began in torment — Patel was plundered for 15 runs in his first over, wherein he looked far more nervous than league debutant Kyle Jamieson. Until the 15th over, he was a forgotten man, dozing in some invisible corner of the ground. Even when reintroduced, he seemed to have little clue of the destiny that waited for him.
Skipper Virat Kohli had his faith rewarded when Patel conceded just seven runs off his first five balls. Then, with the sixth, a low full-toss, he pinged Hardik Pandya in front. At the first sighting, it seemed nothing more than a fluke. A rare instance of Pandya missing the ball altogether as he looked to whip it. But replays suggested a hint of inward drift and late dip, much like a nuanced spinner’s. Patel had just taken some pace off the ball, by rolling his fingers across the ball, so that the ball danced and floated.
Then with a pinpoint sharp in-swinging yorker, he took out Ishan Kishan, who was batting with ease and élan on the sluggish surface. Straight out of the Waqar Younis manual, but 30kph slower. It was as though his slowness outdid the slowness of the wicket. Patel foxed Kieron Pollard with an off-cutter in release, but effectively an off-break, on the second ball of his last over. With the first, he had devoured Krunal Pandya. After narrowly missing the hat-trick, he clean-bowled Marco Jansen to complete his maiden five-wicket haul in T20s. And Mumbai, who were 135/4 in 15.5 overs, stuttered to 159/9 in 20 overs. Just 24 runs in the last four overs against Mumbai is pure gold, and it was Patel who sprinkled the gold dust.
As is their habit, Bangalore nearly over-complicated their own fate. Kohli’s departure precipitated a patented collapse, as they unravelled from 98/2 to 122/6. But de Villiers, as he has performed numerous times in his career, tweaked the script of the game, without ever complicating matters, like his own team.
It was classic de Villiers, waiting patiently like a tiger to leap on his prey. The required run rate was mounting, but he chose to play out Bumrah wisely, not attempting anything outrageous. He shrewdly refrained from shuffling across the stumps, as he likes to. He was more likely to get out that way, either lbw or bowled. Instead, he backed away, giving himself some room and expanding his off-side canvas. He could cut if the ball was short, or drive if it were full. Bumrah smartly followed him but erred just once. That crucially was the first ball of the 19th over, when Bangalore required 19 off 12 balls. The shot went a long way in swinging the course of the match.
An over before, de Villiers launched a calculated assault on Trent Boult, smearing his first ball over long-off before thundering his fourth straight down the ground. The 15-run over was another solid brick in Bangalore’s wall. The South African nearly became a tragic hero, getting out on the brink of victory. But Patel, the not-so-famous hero, was there at the winning moment, proud and now famous.
Sandip G… read more