At the end of the 15th over, Rajasthan Royals needed 39 runs from 30 balls to beat Delhi Capitals. Robin Uthappa was batting on 28 off 21 balls and he was partnered by Rahul Tewatia, who had already helped RR with two successful chases in IPL 2020, in the middle.
But then, Delhi Capitals staged an incredible comeback to win by 13 runs and they did that on the back of some truly aggressive bowling.
It all started with Ravichandran Ashwin’s over. The off-spinner conceded just two runs in 16th over. He took no wicket but the asking rate went from 7.80 before the start of the over to 9.25.
In a match where DC’s other bowlers took a bit of a stick in the Powerplay overs, Ashwin’s spell of 4-0-17-1 was vital in helping them get back in the game.
End of 16th over: RR 125/5
After that Shikhar Dhawan, who was standing in as captain for the injured Shreyas Iyer, turned to Kagiso Rabada.
This was a vital over. If RR had a good over then the match would have perhaps irreversibly turned in their favour. But Rabada did just enough to keep them real. One perfectly executed ramp shot by Tewatia got RR a four that they badly needed. The eight-run over maintained the balance.
End of 17th over: RR 133/5
DC had changed the equation a bit in their favour now. RR needed 29 runs from 18 balls but with two set batsmen in the middle, this should have still been achievable. But no one sent that memo to Anrich Nortje. The South African had been running in and bowling fast since the start of the match and he had even bowled two deliveries clocked above 155 km/h earlier in the evening.
He did the same this time round. Late in the game, batsmen usually try to use Nortje’s pace and score quickly. RR tried too, but they failed. When Uthappa tried to come down the wicket, he found his stumps shattered by a 149 km/h yorker. The DC paceman conceded just 4 runs and took a wicket to push the asking rate to 12.50.
End of the 18th over: RR 137/6
Dhawan had a decision to make: who should bowl the penultimate over? Rabada had one over and Tushar Deshpande, who was making his IPL debut, had one. He decided to go with experience and it worked like a dream.
Rabada conceded just 3 runs and took the wicket of Jofra Archer to leave Tewatia and RR with the mammoth task of scoring 22 runs from 6 balls.
End of the 19th over: RR 140/6
A lot had been said about Deshpande’s pace and his ability at the death during the game and before. He showed that it wasn’t all talk. He started off the last over with a wide but then conceded just 3 runs off the next four balls to effectively kill the match.
End of the 20th over: RR 148/6
Early on in IPL 2020, it seemed like the great batting wickets would reduce bowlers to mere decorations but now as the wickets start getting worn out a little, the batsmen are having to use their brains a little more and that makes for a fascinating battle too.
The bigger grounds also means that mishits aren’t flying over the boundary line as they so often do. Timing the ball well is back in vogue too.
If anything, the changes rid T20 cricket of the monotony that so often plagues it. Suddenly, bowlers can go on the attack and even intimidate batsmen. It adds another layer of intrigue to the game of glorious uncertainties.
While it is great fun to watch batsmen smash sixes all over the park, it is perhaps just as exciting to see a bowler fox the batsmen through pace or spin. The last few games where sides have faltered while chasing ‘achievable’ targets show that perhaps the time is ripe for a formula change.
In a way, Rabada, Nortje and Ashwin showed that perhaps T20 can be a bowler’s game too. They don’t need to be second-class citizens in white-ball cricket. Cricket, after all, isn’t just a six-hitting contest. It is so much more. It should be so much more.