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March 24, 2010
Hit me baby just one time
Free hits were made for Twenty20, but none of the offerings from Sreesanth were accepted by Rajasthan's batsmen. Wayward in his bowling, Sreesanth sent down a no-ball on his very first delivery of the match but Naman Ojha was beaten on the free hit, which was a clever bouncer. Sreesanth's second free-hit delivery was another short ball that cramped Faiz Fazal and yielded just a single. Two free hits for just one run. Talk about getting out of jail.
Nothing like a decent start
It wasn't massive, but Rajasthan's top order at least got a start. Their opening stands in four previous matches were 0, 14, 27, and a 0. But Michael Lumb - after a first-ball duck in the previous match - was quickly into his stride and helped add 35 with Naman Ojha in 3.4 overs. Lumb went on to score the best contribution by a Rajasthan opener this season, a 30-ball 41, after which the No. 3 Fazal collected 45 cool runs. Not outstanding, but some of the cobwebs had been brushed away.
A few Indian newspapers had hyped up the rivalry between the Pathan brothers ahead of the clash of the basement teams. Round one went to Yusuf Pathan, and he had his sibling to thank. Off the fifth ball of the ninth over, Yusuf heaved at a slower ball from Shalabh Srivastava and top-edged it high into the sky. Irfan ran around from long-off, settled under the steepler, but dropped the catch.
For the second match running Adam Voges provided vital ballast to Rajasthan's middle order. After 14 balls he had 29, a superb strike rate in Twenty20, and then allowed Fazal to take strike. Fazal reciprocated with a few lovely boundaries off the back foot, and after he departed for 45 Voges gave further evidence of how crucial a player he is. He steered the third-last ball expertly behind point for four, stole two off the next ball, scampered back to strike even as the non-striker was run out, and smashed the final ball over midwicket for four. The last over cost 13, Voges' 45 came off 24 balls, and his efforts gave Rajasthan a good total to defend.
Eyeball to eyeball
The IPL isn't all fun and music and big hits. Two instances during the game showed that Twenty20 is serious business. Sreesanth started out erratically, but when he dismissed Ojha for 13 he gave the batsmen a proper send-off, walking down the track and glaring at the batsmen ever after he'd left the middle. Then, during Punjab's chase, Munaf Patel began a glaring contest with Ravi Bopara, who is never one to back away. Bopara had collected a pair of triples during Munaf's second over, which cost 15, and the bowler didn't like it one bit. What began as a customary mumble in frustration, with Munaf continuing the eyeball confrontation to Bopara, ended with Munaf being told to go play in traffic - well, you know what I mean - as he loped off into the outfield.
Munaf's third over confirmed the direction his career has taken. After trying to dismiss Bopara with his chatter after an expensive second over, Munaf was taken to the cleaners in his third by Manvinder Bisla. His definition of a sighter was a slogged four which sent the ball flying over midwicket for four, the next ball was clubbed for six, and that was followed by two more fours as Munaf's figures took a beating.
Actions speak louder than words
When Munaf came back to bowl his final over, the 13th of Punjab's innings, his captain had put a lot of faith in him. This time he silenced himself and delivered. A clever slower ball got Bopara chipping to mid-on and the second produced a loose shot from Mahela Jayawardene. It was lobbed back over Munaf toward Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, who charged in and hit the stumps with a direct hit to run out Irfan. Thankfully for Rajasthan, Munaf had let the ball do the talking.
Value for money
Can you ever keep Yusuf Pathan out of the game? It was another disappointing outing with the bat, but when Shane Warne tossed Yusuf the ball for the 15th over he struck and added another in his second over. Yusuf has been able to spin the ball and restrict the batsmen with disciplined control, ultimately curbing the scoring by picking wickets. What he may be failing to deliver with the bat, he's making up for with the ball.
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