Kartik wins in Royal Challengers' loss
Bowling analysis is a term used synonymously with bowling figures. That usage doesn't work here. Twenty20 is a hazardous place to "analyse" bowlers. You can get wickets without doing anything, like when AB de Villiers reverse-swept L Balaji through to the keeper. In IPL, what with the inconsistent fielding standards, it becomes even worse. Ask Ravi Rampaul, who did everything right when opening the bowling in a small defence, but saw Abhimanyu Mithun make a right mess of a sitter at long leg. The beneficiary, Jacques Kallis, scored 38 after that reprieve, and possibly cost Rampaul's side the match.
Bowling figures usually prove crucial in the IPL, because, well, somebody has to get the wickets when the batsmen go kamikaze, but the bowlers are often incidental to what happens. More often than what is ideal, at any rate. Sometimes you just see batsmen do inexplicably crazy things, and bowlers walk away with excellent figures. Sometimes you see top edges fly for sixes and your fielders letting you down, and you take home dubious records. However, Murali Kartik's figures of 4-0-17-1 in defence of just 115 were possibly an accurate reflection of how well he bowled.
And Kartik was hit for the longest six of the match off the first ball he bowled. It was a pitch where all batsmen had struggled to time, and the other two sixes, hit by Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers, had just about cleared the rope. It can be demoralising when you run in, and see Yusuf Pathan, a hit and miss player on current form, smack one out of the ground.
Kartik, a veteran of Twenty20 in a variety of conditions and against a variety of batsmen, didn't respond with darts. He didn't go for ultra defensive fields. He trapped Yusuf in his next over with a left-arm bowler's offbreak, and then went on to show his mastery over Manoj Tiwary. Once again, it has to be seen through the tunnel of Twenty20, which has caused panic among better and more accomplished batsmen.
For the best part of Kartik's bowling, and perhaps the match, we need to go to the 13th over, which began with Kolkata Knight Riders needing 48 off 48. It wasn't quite Shane Warne, but there was drama all around. On more than one occasion, he pulled out of the delivery looking back at the non-striker. The batsmen, Tiwary and Jacques Kallis, weren't backing up too far, and it would have taken extraordinary work to mankad them, but Kartik was playing his small tricks to get under their skins.
Kartik might have too, because the batsmen did look indignant from afar. The bigger tricks, though, were seen in the actual bowling. Tiwary is known to play a wild shot as soon as he faces a few dot balls, but this time he responded with a flick over mid-on. The captain, as with almost all Twenty20 captains, sent mid-on back immediately. Sitting back and waiting for the batsmen to make the inexplicable mistake is the preferred way in T20. And it has happened more often in this IPL than makes for exciting cricket.
Kartik, though, called the mid-on back up. He wanted Tiwary to play that shot again. He was telling Tiwary he wasn't impressed. Tiwary nearly responded to the taunt, jumping out of the crease next ball. Kartik beat him in the flight, but couldn't go past the bat. Then he fired one in. And then he saw Tiwary make room, and tossed one up wide outside off. Despite the boundary, only six had come off that over. Despite that six first ball, Kartik had gone for just 15 in three.
Kartik was kept back after that over. He was to make the impact. And what a cruel game. You get one over to make the impact. And that one over can easily be played out when the asking rate is six an over. So on he came with 31 required off 30. The over was full of moral victories. You could argue Kartik would have won this if the contest had gone longer, you could have argued Tiwary would have behaved more like a batsman had this been a longer contest.
It was clear Tiwary was charging too early because with three consecutive deliveries Kartik saw him and bowled wide twice, and cramped him up once. On one of those occasions, he nearly had Tiwary stumped. Just two runs came off the over, Knight Riders now needed 29 off 24, but Kartik was bowled out. He had done his bit, though. It was up to other bowlers now.
And Kallis got a massive top edge to the next ball, which sailed over the keeper's head. All pressure gone. Knight Riders won.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo