A legspinning WG graces Pune attack
If Adam Zampa were a superhero, he would be called The Wicket Gobbler. He is something of an anomaly in Rising Pune Supergiants' campaign. That they have won as many games in IPL 2016 as the number of players they have lost to injury is the tragicomic nugget that describes their season.
But Zampa's numbers are processed in a distant universe to that of Supergiants. His 11 wickets have come from merely four games at an average of 7.54 and an economy rate of 6.38. Among those who have played at least four games for Supergiants, the next best average belongs to Ashok Dinda, who is the only one in the 20s at 21.50.
Ironically, Zampa wasn't a first-choice selection until about 10 days ago, when he emerged as the least scarred of the bowlers mauled by Virat Kohli. As a reward he got another gig where he turned up, prised out six wickets, and even breezed his way through a press conference. Easy-peasy it wasn't though. Zampa bowled at the death, sucker-punching three batsmen in the last over.
Against Delhi Daredevils on Tuesday night, Zampa, who MS Dhoni said brought stability to Supergiants' bowling, was assigned a less strenuous role when he was introduced in the 10th over. Daredevils were 42 for 2, and Karun Nair and Sanju Samson were on restoration duty after yet another lukewarm Powerplay - Delhi have scored fewer than 30 in the first six overs on three occasions now.
The first two balls were generously tossed up and Nair comfortably drilled them through cover for a brace of twos. Zampa went flatter for the next three deliveries, one of which was a googly. Despite Zampa's barnstorming show the other night, Dhoni would have gladly settled for the legspinner playing the containing role, as Daredevils were already playing catch-up. Besides, the bowling unit, led by Ashok Dinda, was already hustling the opponents from one end. This was expected to be one of those quiet, consolidation-oriented middle phases.
Samson, on 10 from 12 balls, saw an opportunity to impose himself based on the evidence of the last three balls, and probably fancied another perfunctory flatter delivery. He jumped out of the crease but Zampa held it back slightly with ample side spin on the ball, and Samson was stumped yards out of his crease.
Zampa then switched ends to bowl the 13th over and by then had his Wicket Gobbler suit on. He sandwiched two tossed up legbreaks with a googly to Nair and Rishabh Pant, and followed them up with a shorter, flatter delivery. Despite the limited weapons at his disposal, Zampa was creating a clever pattern.
The fifth ball was a shorter googly and Pant connected with the pull for two runs. The next delivery was also a googly, but fuller on off stump. Pant, possibly playing for the leg break, attempted a hefty swing over mid-wicket, but the ball descended into Thisara Perera's hands at long-off.
In his next over, Zampa continued with the same assortment of flighted leg-breaks interspersed with flatter ones and googlies, and got his mandatory wicket after Nair missed a sweep. But Zampa's best three deliveries were probably the ones which didn't fetch him a wicket.
In the 17th over, he first bowled a quicker delivery to cramp Chris Morris' hitting range before serving up a loopy leg-break on leg stump that Morris missed. The last delivery was flat and short outside off and Morris' cut had a deep point for protection.
By the time Zampa was through with his spell, Daredevils had stumbled through the middle overs to 81 for 5. On the eve of the match, coach Stephen Fleming sat down with Dhoni and animatedly discussed the notes he was carrying with him. If it was a list of hits and misses of the season then Zampa would surely figure high up in the first category.
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun