All-IPL contest provides engaging duels
One of the appeals in watching the all-IPL contests is the novelty of the battles between some of the game's biggest players. That is, after all, one of the reasons why the IPL was created. Perhaps for those who watch it regularly, there is nothing unusual about seeing such players in heated battle. But for those who don't - and South Africans are among them - there is still value in it and the match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils was a prime example of how engaging these contests still are. Three of them caught the eye.
To start with, there was the short-lived duel between Sunil Narine and Mahela Jayawardene. Narine claimed Jayawardene's wicket in the World Twenty20 final six days ago, when Jayawardene top-edged a reverse pull off the spinner. It was not an inability to read Narine that undid Jayawardene then, just the threat of rain that was playing on his mind. This time too, it was not a technical inadequacy that saw Jayawardene fall victim to Narine. He knew it was the offbreak coming out of the spinner's hand but wanted to cut and missed.
Jayawardene enjoyed the clash and was quick to issue a reminder that Narine has not always won against him. "I've had the better of him in quite a few matches as well and now he has got me," Jayawardene said. "That's how it goes sometimes. You need to take chances against some bowlers."
Narine's individualism has made him one of the most intriguing bowlers to watch and his captain Gautam Gambhir believes he could be involved in many more tough tussles. "He has been fantastic since he made his debut and he keeps proving why he is so special," Gambhir said. "He has got a long way to go but today, the way he bowled [on a pitch] that didn't have so much in it for him, was brilliant. He will always be a big threat, especially against players who have not seen him before."
Even players we have seen plenty of can provide absorbing moments. How about the battle between England and Australia playing out on a South African pitch between two Indian teams? Kevin Pietersen and Brett Lee may not be everyone's idea of an Ashes-style contest but there was some fire between them.
Just two days ago, Pietersen posted a picture on Twitter of him and Lee having a "romantic dinner." The photograph showed Pietersen going in to kiss a grinning Lee on the cheek - evidence that the pair are friends. But there was nothing friendly about what was happening between them on the field.
The first ball Pietersen faced off Lee he drove back at him hard. Lee could not catch it but saved three runs instead. The third one was a short ball and Pietersen pulled, only to hole out to midwicket. It ended an unspectacular comeback for the England batsman who had not played a competitive match in five weeks.
"He was very keen and it was good to see the hunger in him," Jayawardene said of Pietersen. "It was good for him to go out and have a hit." Pietersen will return to London for a few days to continue talks with the England team management as part of his re-integration process. He will be back for Daredevils' next game, which is on Friday in Durban - Pietersen's former home town.
But the most brutal of all the battles was the one between two players from the same country. Morne Morkel felled Jacques Kallis with a typical short of a length ball that bounced sharply and hit him on the glove. Kallis was in immediate pain, grimaced and called for the physiotherapist while a few of the Daredevils players went to his aid.
As evidence that Morkel has toughened up, he was not one of them. He paused for a moment, had a cursory glance at his national team-mate and went back to his mark. Kallis had to leave the field with a bleeding finger and was taken for x-rays which revealed no fracture but is in doubt for Knight Riders' next match. Morkel went on take two wickets and dominated the Knight Riders batsmen.
"When we saw the wicket, we knew our bowlers would be tough to handle," Jayawardene said. "But they also had to bowl good areas and they did. They hit the deck, they swung the ball and they asked a lot of questions."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent