When the show began in Bangalore on April 18, it was widely believed that bowlers are part of it only because a game of cricket can't be held without them. No one did much to completely dispel this notion (despite that lone Tanvir spell) until Shoaib Akhtar demonstrated on Tuesday how effective pure pace could be. On Friday, it was Shaun Pollock's turn to show that speed is important, not indispensable.
Bowling largely within the 120-125 kmph range, the South African plucked the heart out of the Kolkata batting order. With Sourav Ganguly's men never recovering from the early blows, it seemed as if Pollock had just chipped in with a stellar performance in a match that might go a long way in deciding the semi-final line-up.
There was encouraging bounce and some movement off the pitch, but there is no reason to think that these were the secrets behind Pollock's success. The ball didn't move as late or as subtly when others bowled. Bowling from close to the stumps as he always has, the veteran got the ball to move late and both ways, with some clever use of the short ones.
Once he had made those early inroads, the visitors were always going to struggle, given the lack of depth in their batting. There is nothing more than bits-and-pieces after the top four and on this day, they simply caved in with Ganguly witnessing most of it from the non-striker's end, having played just 20 balls during his 50-minute stay. The total of 67 was the competition’s lowest.
There was no reason to hope for any anti-climax in the second half and after Aakash Chopra dropped a tough chance at first slip off the first ball from Shoaib, Sanath Jayasuriya finished the match hours before schedule. The vociferous locals packing the stands and rooting for their team enjoyed it all, although the show lasted a lot less than what they had expected.
Fifty came in 4.1 overs and Jayasuriya was singularly responsible for that. After the miscued hook first ball, he convincingly won his duel with Shoaib and this incessant flow of fours and sixes was very much what Twenty20 is all about. So telling was this onslaught that the target was achieved in 5.3 overs which meant that the match expected to last 40 overs was over in 20.5!
Things are tilted so heavily towards batsmen that everyone was talking about Jayasuriya after the match. Yes, the way he timed some shots and used Shoaib's pace was phenomenal, but that was not quite the highlight of the day. A 17-ball 48 is more attractive than figures of 4-0-12-3. Purely in terms of importance, however, the bowling bit proved more important at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday.