Old virtues give Mishra the lost edge
All-star of the match
For someone who has played top-flight cricket for 18 years, more than the age of Daredevils' other hero Sandeep Lamichhane, Amit Mishra gave the impression of being a man with plenty to prove at the start of the season, especially after going wicketless and conceding 79 runs in his first two games.
Was it the pressure of his price tag - Delhi Daredevils shelled out INR 4 crores (US$ 625,000 approx then) for him - or the possibility of having to compete with two other promising legspinners? Lamichhane has been hailed a special talent that was in evidence in the last three games he played. Rahul Tewatia, Mishra's Haryana team-mate, offers batting muscle too, in addition to being an excellent fielder and an attacking bowling option. Irrespective, Mishra's succes in the second half of the tournament was based on good old principles of flight, dip and drift - elements that have helped deliver a bulk of his 228 wickets in all T20s.
Two nights ago, Daredevils were defending 162, 12 fewer than on Sunday. He sucked out any momentum Chennai Super Kings may have had courtesy Ambati Rayudu's 28-ball half-century. Here, he had to contend with not just a pulsating Mumbai Indians start, but also 55 and 57-meter square boundaries at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Did these matter to him? No. He loves to attack, unafraid to flight the ball even on the face of short boundaries and broad blades that carry even mis-hits deep into the stands.
These virtues earned him the wickets of Evin Lewis, Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya, all of whom are more than capable of muscling the ball. The first two altered Mumbai's rampant approach, the third nearly hammered the final nail, leaving Ben Cutting the unenviable task of batting with the lower order. It contributed immensely to a morale-boosting season-ending win.
The wow moment
It's possible if Mishra is asked to bowl just one delivery for the rest of his life, he'd choose a loopy legbreak. It's predictable in that he lands it right where a batsman thinks he wants it, except it dips on him. On tracks like the one at Kotla, he can impart sidespin too, like he exhibited in prising out Hardik.
Mumbai needed 53 off 32, with Hardik on 27 off 17. So when Mishra went slightly wide of the crease and looped a legbreak nicely outside off, Hardik had already lined himself up to clear long-on. But because the ball dipped slightly on him and he had to reach out, this didn't find the desired destination. He lost his shape and ended up getting a leading edge to backward point. This was enough to send shivers down the Mumbai dugout.
- ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats metric, a new way of understanding T20 numbers, pegged Mishra's Smart Economy Rate at a mind-boggling 2.59 after his spell that read 4-0-19-3.
- With 146 wickets, Mishra is the highest wicket-taker among active cricketers playing in the IPL. He is just eight behind topper Lasith Malinga.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo