Archer’s stellar debut, Samson’s excellent consistency, Chennai’s gesture for their fans, and more from the week gone by.
A total of 21 matches have been played at the 2018 Indian Premier League so far, and we are starting to get a fair idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the eight teams in the fray.
Here’s a recap of all the action – on the field and a little bit off it – from the week gone by.
The veteran centurions
Only two centuries have been scored in the competition so far, and they have been scored by men aged 38 and 36 – Chris Gayle and Shane Watson respectively.
There were question marks over the ability of the two men in the shortest format of the game. Indeed, it seemed Gayle wouldn’t even find a buyer when the auction took place prior to the 2018 season, till Kings XI Punjab picked him up cheap (by his standards).
But Gayle made a mark immediately after walking out in Punjab’s third match, scoring a 33-ball 63 against Chennai Super Kings. But it was in his second game that Gayle looked the part, hitting just one four and 11 sixes in a 63-ball 104* to lead his team to victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad.
If Gayle can, so can Watson. The big man was picking up wickets without scoring too many for Chennai till it came to the game against Rajasthan Royals. Out he went at the top of the order and slammed nine fours and six sixes on his way to a 57-ball 106.
Only two centuries to date then, and both coming from the experienced men. What’s that they said about T20 being a young person’s game?
Gayle and Rahul – firing in tandem
Before Gayle got in, Rahul opened with Mayank Agarwal, who didn’t quite get going even as Rahul hit his way to 51 and 47. Once he got together with Gayle, though, the two have been the story of the IPL, with stands of 96, 53 and 116.
Gayle has scored 229 runs from three games, while Rahul has 213 from five, a big reason why, at the end of the week, Punjab have eight points from five games.
AB’s back in form
He looked the part during the Test series against Australia, playing all four Tests and scoring four half-centuries and a century as South Africa 3-1. Then he looked good against Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab, scoring 44 and 57 before going off the boil somewhat.
With Royal Challengers Bangalore stuttering, and Virat Kohli doing most of the scoring, AB de Villiers had to make a statement and he did that against Delhi Daredevils with 39-ball blitz for 90 not out, which swept Delhi off their feet and gave Bangalore a six-wicket win. About as good as de Villiers has ever hit the ball, and that’s saying something.
The topsy-turvy table
Pre-tournament calculations don’t often add up to much in the IPL, what with teams changing pretty much every season. But, even then, Mumbai Indians wouldn’t have expected to be in seventh place after five games. Delhi, unfortunately, again find themselves bottom of the table with one win from five games – the same as Mumbai – while Bangalore are only marginally higher with two wins from five.
Right on top, meanwhile, are Chennai, who were missing from the mix the last two seasons, and Punjab, who have ridden on the heroics of Rahul and Gayle – both have four wins from five games. Kolkata, Hyderabad and Rajasthan are in the middle of the pile.
Samson has the Orange Cap
As well as Gayle, Rahul, de Villiers and Kohli have batted, the man with the most runs at this stage is Sanju Samson.
Unexpected? Not to followers of the IPL and Indian cricket, who have often wondered why Samson hasn’t been able to get more international games despite brilliant IPL performances over the years. But, even for them, 49, 37, 92* and 52 in four of his six games is the sort of consistency Samson hasn’t shown before. Rajasthan aren’t complaining – they have won three out of six, and Samson leads the scorers’ chart with 239 runs.
Doing it for the fans
Chennai returned to the IPL after a two-year gap, but their waiting fans were denied a chance to watch much of their heroes, as political issues forced the home matches to be moved to Pune. The franchise, however, stepped up to do their bit for their supporters, and arranged a special train to ferry 10,000-odd fans across to Pune for the game against Rajasthan. What’s the IPL without the fans, after all?
Gayle and Watson, de Villiers and Rishabh Pant, Samson and Kohli, there have been outstanding batting efforts this past week but the one that stood out was from Kane Williamson, although it came in a losing cause.
Suresh Raina (54*) and Ambati Rayudu (79) had led Chennai to 182/3 and Hyderabad, in reply, lost Ricky Bhui and Manish Pandey for ducks and Deepak Hooda for one. The support came from Shakib Al Hasan (24) and Yusuf Pathan (45), but Williamson was batting at another level, his 51-ball 84 with five fours and five sixes helping Hyderabad reach within five runs of victory before they fell short.
Everyone was waiting as Jofra Archer recovered from an injury, and when he did finally make an appearance it was worth the wait. His first three overs against Mumbai went for six, nine and three runs respectively, but no wickets. Then came the final over, and knuckle balls and searing yorkers left Mumbai in a mess – three wickets fell as Archer ended with 3/22 and Rajasthan went on to win by three wickets.
There’s quite a lot of traffic at the top of the wicket-takers’ table, with Sunil Narine, Mayank Markande, Umesh Yadav and Chris Woakes tied with eight strikes apiece. Markande stands out from the pack on most of the perimeters, but Narine’s effectiveness is underscored in the economy rate column, where he has 6.95.
“I wanted to let him (Rashid Khan) know that ‘Universe Boss’ is here. I wanted the bowlers to know who is in charge.” – Chris Gayle after his century against Sunrisers Hyderabad
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