Cricket is a mind game more than any sport with the possible exception of golf, the classic masochists' recreation and that is not a dig at Tiger Woods. Paul Collingwood doesn't do flash and flourish has never been his thing. But he knows his game and plays within its limitations, and tonight's match-winning half-century was as much about beating the opposition with mind as it was with strength. He's done this countless times for England but don't expect him to take this IPL game lightly.
Collingwood's ability to rebuild an innings when the opposition bowlers have gained the momentum is a trait that any team would love to have. On both occasions that Collingwood has scored big this season, Delhi Daredevils' top order stumbled and left him with a battle to avoid defeat; tonight it was tougher because there was no centurion to lead the way.
After 11 overs Delhi were 92 for 4 and conditions were just fine for batting. Collingwood was trying to lay a foundation but was losing out on partners. Carefully, he began to accumulate his runs, smartly trying to pinch a run off every ball. His front foot came forward even as the ball left the bowlers' hand and he deflected the ball away. Collingwood had a sense of what ball was going to be bowled, and in that regard Bangalore's attack proved to be ideal.
While Anil Kumble, Kevin Pietersen and KP Appanna bowled tidily to Collingwood, the rest were too one-dimensional. Jacques Kallis was too straight, Vinay Kumar attacked the stumps but didn't get any assistance from the track, Cameron White was terrible, and Abhimanyu Mithun didn't have the variation to set Collingwood off his game.
The over that ultimately proved decisive was the 12th, bowled by White. It cost 19, with Collingwood looting 18, and it gave him much-needed momentum. Until the ball landed in White's hands Collingwood was 15 off 16; at the end of the over he had 33 from 22. The tone of his innings had changed and he hit 42 runs in the next 24 balls faced. The shots that rocketed off his bat were powerful and precise, but they couldn't have flowed had Collingwood not sussed out the bowling earlier and played his natural game.
Compare this to how Kallis and Pietersen batted later in the night. Unlike Collingwood they had more batsmen to follow. Like Collingwood, they were trying to lay a strong foundation but one would have expected some urgency. Instead both withdrew into their shells and the run-scoring was drastically curtailed. Between Pietersen's entrance on the fourth ball of the fourth over and his exit on the second of the tenth, only 27 runs were scored, with 14 dot balls. Only one six was hit, and no fours. Unlike Collingwood, Kallis was unable to compensate towards the end.
The other key to Delhi's win also came down to discipline. Mithun and Kallis bowled three overs each and their consistency left a lot to be desired. Their length was erratic and on a surface that begged for discipline they could have kept the batsmen in check like Rajat Bhatia and Pradeep Sangwan did later in the night. The Bangalore pair bowled five short balls, five half-volleys and three length balls, which got hit for 42 runs. Even in the other 29 legal deliveries that were bowled, there were many drifting down the leg side when they should have been probing on off or middle.
Now look at what Bhatia and Sangwan achieved. They completely avoided the short balls and conceded only 17 runs when they erred in length. In four overs bowling in tandem, the pair allowed just 18 runs, with no boundary and Sangwan dismissed the dangerous Robin Uthappa. Bhatia finished with 1 for 24 in his four overs, and Sangwan ended his with 3 for 22. Their efforts tell a story, and they were successful because their heads were in the right place. That's a trait Collingwood, the most driven of players, knows only too well.