Sandeep exploits familiar pitch on return
So many changes did Kings XI Punjab make that at the toss Glenn Maxwell said Hashim Amla, T Natarajan, Varun Aaron and "uhh someone else" came back in. That someone else, though, is accustomed to doing one of the tougher jobs in T20 cricket: bowl inside the Powerplay. It is a tough format for the bowlers, but the first six and the last five are tougher than the middle nine.
Sandeep Sharma has long been a Powerplay specialist in the IPL. He missed the last match - probably because he has remarkably better stats against right-hand batsmen than left - but was back against Delhi Daredevils. The last match was against Sunrisers Hyderabad, whose openers are left-handers. This IPL, Sandeep has gone at 5.70 an over against right-hand batsmen in the Powerplay, but that economy rate rises to 8.72 against left-hand batsmen.
So against a right-heavy Daredevils top order, Sandeep was back opening the bowling. He made sure he hit the right lengths to maximise mischief from a slightly tacky pitch. The early swing accounted for Sam Billings. The stifling accuracy subjected Sanju Samson, Daredevils' opener who looks to go hard against the new ball, to his slowest IPL innings before a subtle change of pace produced the leading edge. Then he flew to his left in his follow-through to catch Shreyas Iyer in his third over to make it 22 for 3 in five overs.
For good measure, Sandeep came back to claim Kagiso Rabada in the 16th over, the first left-hand batsman he has dismissed this IPL.
The wow moment
Fast bowlers have to first and foremost be good athletes, but they are not well known for changing direction quickly, not when they have charged in 20 yards to propel a rock at high speed. The mechanics of bowling depend on channelling all your momentum in a straight line and towards the batsman. Then you see a leading edge falling on the adjacent pitch, and you change your direction, countering the momentum, and then dive and pull it one-handed. As Sandeep said later, "That was one moment I enjoyed the most."
Stats that matter
- Sandeep has bowled more balls in the Powerplay than any other bowler in this IPL. Over 19 overs, he has gone at only 6.47 an over, bowling more dots than anyone else. His six Powerplay wickets are the joint-highest along with Samuel Badree and Mitchell McClenagahan
- Sandeep's figures of 4 for 20 were his best in T20s
- Daredevils' 67 was their lowest total in all IPL matches
- This was also the joint-lowest first-innings total in IPL
What they said
"In the last match Viru bhai [Virender Sehwag] asked me to take a break and think about my game. I spoke to him during that match. He said my strength was swing, and I should go for swing early on without worrying about runs. Being a local here, I know the ball sticks a little in the pitch in 4pm games, and I looked to take advantage of that."
Sandeep Sharma on his effort
"Another brilliant spell by Sandeep. Despite the fact you had had major injuries before the season, the way you are performing is outstanding."
Sandeep's Punjab team-mate Mandeep Singh puts his efforts in perspective
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo