iconimg Saturday, May 30, 2015

Kaushik Chatterji , PTI
Mohali, May 06, 2013
That cricket's shortest format can be particularly harsh on the ones with the leather in their hand is no secret. Then again, that's something that the bowlers know all too well. And just in case they forget it, there are matches like the one in Mohali on Monday that serve as grim reminder.

First, there was Praveen Kumar. Blessed with the ability to move the ball both ways, the Kings XI Punjab pacer started off with a brilliant outswinger that beat Cheteshwar Pujara. Three balls later, it was Chris Gayle on strike, but the result was the same - the ball moved away, beating the left-handed batsman fair and square.

When he came back to bowl the penultimate over of the Royal Challengers Bangalore's innings, Praveen had not taken a wicket, but had conceded only 16 runs in his three overs. By T20 standards, that's brilliant, as were the first four deliveries of his final over - perfect wide yorkers all, two of them beating Moises Henriques outside the off-stump. But then, even the best in the business find it hard to land the ball in the exact spot six times out of six.

The fifth ball of that over was a low full toss on middle stump that was sent soaring over the mid-wicket boundary; the final delivery - another full toss, this time on off-stump - went to long-off. And just like that, Praveen's spell was relegated into obscurity, his attempt at running Pujara out (given not out by the TV umpire) notwithstanding.

In the second half of the match, the bitter lesson was learnt by R Vinay Kumar and RP Singh, RCB's leading wicket-takers this season, who were carted all over the park by David Miller to keep Kings XI Punjab in the hunt till the very end. This after RCB had been propelled to a seemingly insurmountable total. Gayle smashed another half-century, as did Pujara upon his return from a right index finger injury, but it was AB de Villiers' 38 at two runs per ball that provided the final push.

Striking rich
A glance at the strike rates of the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsmen throws up a bit of a surprise. Not the fact that at the head of it is R Vinay Kumar - a mere technicality, given that the team's leading wicket-taker has only been required to bat in four of RCB's 12 innings so far. Given his heroics, one could be forgiven for assuming that, among the top-order batsmen, it is  Gayle who leads the chart. This assumption is further cemented when one checks the figures — 164.53. But then, there's someone - a master improviser - who sits pretty with a strike rate of 165.14 after Monday's game against Kings XI Punjab.