The Sehwag slice
When Virender Sehwag is in full flow, life is a long nightmare for point and short third man. Till this innings, Sehwag had looked in fairly good touch all season without quite reaching the heights he is capable of, and it had been notable how many runs he had been scoring, unusually, on the leg side.
All of that changed today, and Sehwag was back to batting like Sehwag, punishing the merest hint of width. Sehwag had already struck two boundaries, both thrashed square on the off side, when Ishwar Pandey angled a length ball in towards off stump in the fourth over of the Kings XI innings.
It was a pretty good ball, and would have cramped most batsmen for room. The rules, though, are different when you bowl to Sehwag. Down came that bat, in a slicing motion, with a slightly open face. The ball raced away to the fine third man boundary.
Ashwin versus Maxwell
When he was interviewed pitch-side after the Eliminator against Mumbai Indians, R Ashwin had given Glenn Maxwell a hint about what to expect. "Hold on," he had told the interviewer just before he was about to cut to the studio. "Maxwell can expect me to bowl more over the wicket in the next game."
It was a throwaway bit of pre-match psychology, and Ashwin had reason to use any weapon he had at his disposal. In the two league meetings between them, Maxwell had scored 64 runs off 24 balls against him, at a strike rate of 266.67.
As expected, Ashwin bowled from over the wicket right after Maxwell walked in. At first, there seemed to be no change in fortunes. The second ball he bowled was a quick, nervy wide fired down the leg side. The third disappeared over long-on for six. Trying to slog-sweep the next one from way outside off, though, Maxwell holed out to deep midwicket. It was a top-spinner from Ashwin, and Maxwell, without any turn to work with, did not get the power he desired to get it over the fielder, and might have dragged it a touch straighter than he intended.
As Maxwell went past him on his way off the field, Ashwin blew a theatrical kiss in the direction of the dressing rooms. A livid Maxwell stormed off, remonstrating with a match official as he crossed the boundary rope.
Raina in the zone
Suresh Raina was batting in a dreamlike state. He was in perfect position against every ball he faced - such as a Mitchell Johnson bouncer that he pulled behind square for six after rocking back to within inches of knocking over his stumps - and everything he hit was going off the middle of his bat. He had reached his half-century in the previous over, and now, Parvinder Awana was facing the heat. Raina launched the first two balls for six, the first over deep midwicket, the second over long-on, and Awana responded with the best possible delivery he could bowl in that situation.
Awana was bowling with very little protection square on the leg side, with only a midwicket in that region, that too inside the circle. He speared one into the blockhole, on, or possibly even just outside off stump, angling away from the left-handed batsman. Raina, though, would have his way, no matter what. He flicked the ball, square on the leg side, and at the moment of impact it looked as if he would only get a single for it. But he had found the gap to the left of the midwicket fielder, and his timing, moreover, was so unearthly that the fielder had no chance of giving chase and cutting it off.
Chennai Super Kings were 100 for 2 at the end of the sixth over. It was the highest Powerplay score in Twenty20 cricket. Suresh Raina was batting on 87 off 25. The highest score any team had made in the Powerplay this season, before this, had been 86. Super Kings were threatening to pull off the biggest successful T20 chase with five overs to go. It needed some very smart thinking from Kings XI Punjab if they were to get back in the game.
With Brendon McCullum on strike, George Bailey brought on the legspinner Karanveer Singh, and placed three fielders in front of square inside the circle on the off side. He knew, with the ball turning into him, how eager Raina would be to get on strike. But he probably did not know how quickly this would create an opening.
McCullum pushed the first ball into the off side, to the left of cover, and hesitated for a moment before calling Raina across. Bailey was the man at cover. He ran to his left, picked the ball up with his left hand, transferred it to his right hand as he spun around to face the stumps at the batting end, and threw on the turn, hard and flat. It was a sensational piece of athleticism, and the ball hit the base of the stumps, catching Raina well short of the crease. As he walked off the pitch, Raina smashed his bat into the turf.
The tennis-forehand six
MS Dhoni had walked in with Super Kings' hopes fading, and the loss of David Hussey meant he was in danger of running out of partners as well. At the start of his innings, Dhoni looked out of sorts, and was nearly stumped off Karanveer Singh, swiping against the turn and missing completely.
Mitchell Johnson started the next over with a length ball outside off stump. Dhoni swung hard at it, his body spinning as he swiped across the line, and missed. Possibly encouraged by this, Johnson dug the next one in short. Dhoni's response came completely out of the blue. Jumping off his feet, he met the ball outside off stump with a horizontal bat, at close to shoulder-height, and smashed it over mid-off for four.