What a Super Sunday! No, not just Super Sunday. It was ‘Super Overs’ Sunday! Three Super Overs in two matches. In a tough match that went into a second super over, the winners were Kings XI Punjab against Mumbai Indians in Dubai. After the scores were level at 176, the first super over also ended in a tie with each team scoring five runs. And in the second super over, while MI scored 11 runs losing one wicket, KXIP scored 15 off four balls.
In the other match at Abu Dhabi, Kolkata Knight Riders got the better of Royal challengers Bangalore - not only in the match, but in the ensuing super over too. Playing for the first time this year, Lockie Ferguson was the real star for the winners. He took three wickets for just 15 runs in the game, and in the super over, took two wickets in three balls. Needing only three runs to win, KKR had an easy time. After a dot ball, Morgan scored one run off the second ball. On the third, they got two leg byes, and that was that.
Now, while each team has played 9 matches (and 5 more remaining), DC (14), MI (12), RCB (12), and KKR (10) are leading. While RR has 8 points, the other three teams have six points to their credit. These teams will have to win at least four more matches to be in the contention for knock-out but seem to be unlikely. The orange cap, awarded for being the top scorer in the season, currently belongs to KXIP's K. L. Rahul for scoring 595 runs in 9 matches. Delhi Capital's Kasigo Rabada dons the purple cap for taking the most number of wickets - 19 in 9 matches.
Except for CSK and RR, every other team has played a super over this season. And unfortunately, their clash yesterday was such a predictable win for RR, that a super over was nowhere in question. CSK, who was batting first, lost its openers and middle order early in the game to make a measly total of 125/5. RR chased the target with comfort, as they finished the match with 15 balls remaining. Ravindra Jadeja (35*) was the top scorer for CSK, with support from M S Dhoni (28) and Sam Curran (22). For RR, Jos Butler, who was declared Man Of The Match, stole the show with his magnificent knock of 70* off 48 balls. He too was not aided by his teammates while chasing the target as the next top scorers were Sam Smith (26*), and Ben Stokes (19 off 11).
For MI, Quinton de Kock scored his third half-century in a row (57), with Hardik Pandya and Pollard scoring 34 apiece. MI looked almost safe, with 176 on the big ground in Dubai. But KXIP had a chance with K. Rahul scoring 77. Gail (24), Pooran (24), and Hooda (23) made it possible for them to equal the scores, and Bumrah took three wickets. In the first super over, Bumrah got the wicket of Pooran and gave just five runs, and with Shami's tight bowling, the over ended in a tie again with MI scoring just 5 runs. In the second Super over, Jordan bowled two wide balls. Still, MI managed 11 runs, which seemed easy going as Gail hit a six off the first ball by Boult, and then took a single. Mayank Agarwal settled the scores with two fours! K. Rahul was declared the Man Of The Match.
Batting first, KKR scored 163 runs (Gill 36, Tripathi 23, Rana 29, Morgan 34, and Dinesh Kartik 29), which one thought was an easy target for SRH considering Warner's good form. Their win looked certain when Bairstow (36) and Williamson (29) gave them a flying start of 57. But after they lost wickets, Warner (47*) looked helpless. It was Abdul Samad who gave him good support. They came very near to the win when they required just two off the last ball. But Warner could manage only one, and it was a tie. In the super over, KKR won comfortably. Lockie Ferguson was undoubtedly declared Man Of The Match. It gave them fourth place in the points table with 10 points.
The second leg beginning of the IPL on last Monday was good for Chennai Super Kings. They won the Game against Sun Risers Hyderabad with a margin of 20 runs, to make a good start. SRH gave a good fight but at the end, succumbed to the superior CSK attack. For CSK, Watson was the top scorer with 42, while Rayudu made 41 runs. Curran and Jadeja also helped with 31 and 25 respectively. SRH had done well to restrict CSK for 167 but were in trouble after Warner was out for only 9 runs. CSK bowlers bowled economically and took wickets as well. Only Williamson (57) fought single-handedly for SRH but lacked support from the other end thus losing by 20 runs.
Kings XI Punjab, the team at the bottom, surprised Royal Challengers Bangalore and won by 8 wickets. Playing for the first time this year in the tournament KXIP, Chris Gayle scored a half-century to mark his arrival and warn the opponents. He was declared Man Of The Match. This was KXIP’s only second win. Batting first, RCB scored 171 runs. Kohli (48) and Chris Morris (25) were the main scorers, while Shami and R. Ashwin took two wickets each. But in Sharjah, such a total cannot be called safe and that’s what it turned out to be. With K. Rahul and Agarwal giving them a good start, Gayle made his appearance and did exactly what he was expected to do. Hitting four sixes, he reached his half-century but then was run out with just a ball left. The scores were now equal. KXIP required just a run on the last ball, and Pooran hit a six to give Punjab their second win.
DC also kept their winning march by beating Rajasthan Royals by 13 runs. After Prithvi Shah (0) and Rahane (2), Dhavan (57), and Ayyar (53) put on 85 runs to set a moderate target of 162 for RR. Archer took three wickets. RR seemed to be doing well, but then their lower middle order succumbed and fell 13 runs short. Opening the innings, Stokes (41), along with Butler (22), gave a good start to the team. After Smith was gulped by Ashwin, Sanju Samson and Utthapa tried their best but Tevatia could not finish the game as he was expected to. DC bowlers, Norje and Tushar Deshpande took two wickets each. Norje, Man Of The Match, bowled the fastest ball in the tournament at a speed of 156 mph.
MI easily ousted KKR in what was almost a one-sided match. KKR, batting first, were limping at 97 for five, but Morgan (37) and Cummins’s unbeaten 53 gave them a somewhat respectable total of 148. It was a cakewalk for MI after Rohit Sharma (35), and Quinton de Kock gave them a flying start with a 94 runs partnership. Suryakumar Yadav made just 10 runs. After that, Quinton De Kock (78*), with Pandya, guided them to 8 wickets win and was declared Man Of The Match.
Once again in the week, AB de Villers fantastically made a win possible for RCB, which at one stage looked difficult with 55* off just 22 balls. Hitting Unadkat for three sixes in the 19th over, thus changing the equation to only 10 runs of an over. Then he hit the fourth ball of the last over by Archer for a six to the joy of skipper Kohli. Batting first, RR had scored 177, which looked a fighting total - and it was until De Villers came in to bat after Paddikal and Kohli were out on successive balls. The score was 102 then, with only 41 balls left to score 75 runs. But when de Villiers is playing, there's always hope, and he did not disappoint his captain.
An equally good show was by Morris, who took four RR wickets. On Monday, in the last match of the first leg, he had scored 73 of just 33 balls against KKR hitting at will, all over the Sharjah stadium.
In another keenly contested match, DC defeated CSK with just a ball left. Axar Patel did the trick by hitting Jadeja for two sixes on consecutive balls. He scored two runs to equal CSK's total of 179 and hit a six, just like AB had done in the earlier game, to take the team to a glorious win. Shikhar Dhavan scored his maiden century in IPL while remaining not out. Chennai, with the help of du Plessis (57), Watson (36), Rayudu (45), and Jadeja(33) put on 179 runs. But still, the total was not safe on Sharjah stadium, as has been witnessed many times. DC started losing Shaw without a score, and Rahane (8) on 27. Dhavan then found a good partner in Captain Ayyar and took the score to 96 when Ayyar (23) was out. With Stoinis (24), he put on 41 runs. When Carey went back, the score was 159, and DC still needed 21 of 11 balls. When the last over started, they were 18 short, but Axar did the trick to take his team to victory.
Despite three Super overs, the week will be remembered for the unmatchable heroics of AB de Villiers. He looked a complete batsman - that we know he is - who could score majestically at will. He could hit the bowler anywhere in the small Sharjah ground, and that made the bowlers wonder where to bowl him, for he had a ready answer for every trick in the book. With his keen eyes, quick reflexes, and nimble leg movement, de Villiers looked just unbeatable. While on strike, he waited till the ball had left the bowler’s hand, making it impossible for the bowler to anticipate his move. And when AB just got into the position, he hit the ball with the perfect timing and speed to clear the boundary or lift the ball over it, thus speaking for his class. It is impossible to stop him when he is in full cry. It never looked like he was using much power. Such was a fluency of his strokes! Hats off to AB de Villiers!!
A. S. Ketkar
(The writer is a sports journalist who previously worked with Maharashtra Times.)