If a batsman usually gets a 61-ball 106* in a T20 match, then it usually translates into that particular team getting a pretty decent total. After all, with one batsman batting through the innings and having a strike-rate of above 170, the others have full license to keep going for their shots.
But somehow, Delhi Capital’s middle order failed to get going despite Shikhar Dhawan’s brilliant century against the Kings XI Punjab.
The left-hander, who became the first batsman in IPL history to score back-to-back centuries, continued his great run of form with an innings of supreme class on a wicket where the ball was stopping a bit.
The truly special part about Dhawan’s innings was how he looked to time and place the ball and not bludgeon it as many batsmen in T20 usually do. It was an approach that worked for him – but the rest of the Delhi batsmen were unable to learn from his innings.
While Dhawan scored 106 off 61 balls, the rest of the DC lineup only scored 54 off 59 balls. It wasn’t the easiest pitch to bat on but DC were unable to build on Dhawan’s brilliance and that proved to be their downfall.
Now, KXIP’s chase was built very differently. They lost the in-form KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal early but the other batsman refused to take a backward step.
After 4 overs, KXIP were struggling at 24/1 but it took Chris Gayle just one over to truly kickstart the chase. He smashed Tushar Deshpande for 26 runs in one over.
Suddenly, KXIP went from 24/1 after 4 overs to 50/1 after 5 overs. Gayle fell in the sixth over but his 13-ball 29 had taken the pressure off KXIP.
Then, Agarwal was run out in the same over and KXIP could have chosen to rebuild at that point but Nicholas Pooran knew that if he tried to take his time, the pressure of the chase might prove to be too much in the later overs.
So the West Indian kept going for his shots – they kept coming off and DC never really managed to pile on the scoreboard pressure. Pooran finished with a 28-ball 53 and then Maxwell added another 32 off 24 balls.
Compare the performance of the KXIP middle-order to that of DC’s middle-order and one realises that is where the match was won.
DC (3 to 5): 37 off 42 balls
KXIP (3 to 5): 114 off 65 balls
The surge that was fashioned by the KXIP middle-order ensured they were never behind the eight ball and that showed why everyone in T20 cricket has a very specific role to play.
Rahul Dravid, who was with Rajasthan Royals at one point, had once spoken about how teams have very specific requirements from each player.
“Taking things back to my time with the Rajasthan Royals, Brad Hodge is a good example. Maybe it was the 3rd or 4th IPL and we at Rajasthan Royals at that stage were very much a budget team and we were looking for a middle-order batsman to fill the gap. And Brad Hodge was in the auction list,” Dravid had said.
Now, everyone knew that Hodge was hugely successful at the Shield cricket level. But he had never quite managed to cut it at the IPL. Still, as RR dug deeper, they discovered something interesting.
“We just looked at his numbers vis-a-vis the IPL, at that stage he had played at KKR and Kochi… and saw that one of things he really struggled with… where his strike-rate really came down was left-arm spin and his early IPL teams were KKR, where the ball turned square, and Kochi, which also turned a fair bit. So we looked at those numbers and said that we could do something with this. Hodge was also a brilliant player of quality fast bowling. He had a lot of success because of his ability to face and take down quality fast bowling. So we picked him in the auction and decided to bat him only in the last five overs of a game,” said Dravid.
The former India skipper added: “A lot of the people said ‘why are you doing this, look at his average for T20 cricket… look at his numbers…’. When we first told him what we wanted him to do, Hodge looked at me and said: ‘Let me bat at No 3 and I will score 450 runs for you.’ I said, ‘I don’t want the 450 runs, I want 200 runs at 160 SR against Dale Steyn, Mitchell Johnson, Malinga at the back end.’ He didn’t buy into the idea initially but he did win us 2-3 games. He then played for Australia in a T20 World Cup batting at No 6.”
Now, that is interesting simply because DC would have wanted their big-hitter like Rishabh Pant and Marcus Stoinis to force the pace. It was the role that has been assigned to them. But, on the day, they failed.
KXIP, on the other hand, at long last got their middle order to fire. All season long, the top two have done the trick for the Punjab team but a good start didn’t always translate into wins for the team.
But now, KXIP’s middle-order seems to be getting into the act and that just might see their fortunes start to change. They have now moved up to 8 points in the table and another few wins might even see them get into position to challenge for a place in the playoffs.