May 26, 2018
Do it yourself
TO PARAPHRASE Neville Cardus, Rashid Khan honoured the 2018 IPL at Eden Gardens on Friday. India’s most storied cricket venue has been hosting T20 cricket since 2008. Rarely has it witnessed an all-round performance such as this.
The 19-year-old Afghan scored a match-winning 34 not out off 10 balls — his career-best in this format. He changed the game with a superb throw from deep mid-wicket to run Nitish Rana out. The leg-spinner then sucked the life out of Kolkata Knight Riders’ chase, taking 3/19 in four overs. Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa and Andre Russell fell prey to his guile. As he finished his spell, the DJ was blaring the song ‘Afghan Jalebi’. A sporting Eden crowd stood up for the teenager. Rashid wasn’t finished yet. His two catches at the death was the cherry on the cake.
Rashid’s batting first; and the improvisation he showed and the clean connection he made to play the shot of the match would have made even the great AB de Villiers proud. Prasidh Krishna bowled full and swung it into the Rashid. The batsman moved outside the off stump and brought his wrists into play and flicked it 10 rows backs into the stands over deep backward square. The bowler stood in his follow-through, wide-eyed with disbelief.
Over the course of the last few matches, Krishna had enhanced his reputation to the extent of being considered a death-overs specialist. Rashid toyed with the seamer. When he began the final over, Kolkata Knight Riders still had things under control. A 24-run over put the pressure back on the ‘home team’. Rashid smoked two sixes and a brace of boundaries off Krishna, which eventually proved to be the difference.
A total of 174/7 on an uncharacteristically sluggish Eden pitch was a mountain to climb for the KKR. An electric start and their batting depth kept the two-time champions in hunt till the last over, when 19 runs were needed for a place in the final. Sunrisers had exhausted all their frontline bowling options. Carlos Brathwaite was given the ball and after conceding a four to start with, he removed Shivam Mavi and Shubman Gill in successive deliveries to secure a 14-run win for his team. As Mavi swung a length ball from Brathwaite, Rashid started to move towards his left. He was composure personified and took the catch easily. Gill also mistimed a big hit and Rashid came from the ropes to grab the skier with a reverse cup. But it was his run out of Rana that changed the game.
KKR’s start was breathtaking. Sunil Narine hit Khaleel Ahmed for a four and Lynn took a six off the left-arm quick. Then, Narine laid into Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Three fours and a six accounted for a 19-run over KKR had been throwing the kitchen sink upfront. Sunrisers captain Kane Williamson missed a trick by not bringing on spin against Narine and Lynn. The KKR openers accepted the favour gleefully. Siddarth Kaul dismissed Narine in his first over but Nitish Rana and Lynn carried forward the momentum. The latter had been playing his best innings of the season despite being dropped on 25 by Wriddhiman Saha. To be fair to the Sunrisers ’keeper though, he had a sore thumb after being hit by a Mavi snorter early in the game.
After eight overs, KKR were 81/1, going at over 10 runs per over. Their opponents desperately needed a breakthrough. Rana worked a Shakib Al Hasan delivery to deep mid-wicket and went for a second, ignoring a slip. Rashid ran in, pounced on the ball and threw it flat to Saha to effect the run-out. In the context of the game, it was the turning point number one. The next one marked the beginning of a Rashid show with the ball.
Robin Uthappa tried to reverse sweep the leggie and lost his leg stump. The delivery had enough drift to take it away from the batsman. Lynn perished, trying to play a conventional sweep to a Rashid googly.
Russell survived a dropped chance by Saha on three, with Shakib being the unlucky bowler. But a brilliant piece of cricket in the following over nullified the big Jamaican’s big-hitting threats. Rashid went on the attack, brought in a short leg, kept a slip and bowled a flipper a few inches outside the off stump. Russell went for a cut to break free. Dhawan took a sharp catch at slip and the party started in the Sunrisers camp.
Rashid dedicated his Man-of-the-Match award to those who lost their lives in a bomb blast during a cricket match in his hometown in Afghanistan a few days back. “I started my career as a batsman. I believe in my skills and wanted to finish off well. Compared to last year, I have worked really hard in my fielding,” he said.
The reverse curse
Somehow, reverse sweep carries a curse in big matches at the Eden Gardens. Mike Gatting was England’s culprit-in-chief in the 1987 World Cup final against Australia, throwing away his wicket to an attempted reverse sweep. A couple of weeks ago, Ajinkya Rahane attempted one against Kuldeep Yadav and was clean bowled. Today, Uthappa’s shot bordered on the brain-fade. At a time when his team needed just one decent middle-order partnership to see off their rivals, the KKR vice-captain made an out-of-the-box manoeuvre to unsettle the World No. 1 T20 spinner. It proved a very costly mistake. Shakib then cleaned up the in-form Dinesh Karthik with a gem of an armer.