Scott Kuggeleijn bashed a hard length and cranked it up to 140kph for Northern Districts in the Super Smash, New Zealand's domestic T20 competition. It was his hit-the-deck bustle that prompted Chennai Super Kings' coach Stephen Fleming to get him on board as the injured Lungi Ngidi's replacement.
On the eve of the game against Kings XI Punjab at Chepauk, Super Kings received another major blow, with their designated death-overs bowler Dwayne Bravo joining Ngidi on the injury list.
Three days after arriving in Chennai and after two training sessions, Kuggeleijn was asked to cut off his pace and, instead, make the batsmen manufacture it in the end overs. Kings XI Punjab needed 46 off the last three overs with eight wickets in hand. On IPL debut, Kuggeleijn was tasked with bowling two of those overs in front of a vociferous Saturday crowd. This, after he had repeatedly missed his lengths and leaked 27 runs in his first two overs.
Kuggeleijn turned the tables on Kings XI, giving away only ten runs in his last two overs while claiming the crucial wickets of the well-set KL Rahul and Sarfaraz Khan, who had put on 110 off 93 balls for the third wicket.
Having been punished for bowling too full in the early exchanges, Kuggeleijn dragged his length back and mixed it up with cutters that gripped on a tired Chepauk pitch. The slower balls tricked both Rahul and Sarfaraz into holing out in the outfield.
"[Kuggeleijn] interests me because he had some pace and played international cricket," Super Kings' coach Fleming said at the post-match press conference. "The thing we can't understand without working with him is his temperament. He has been here for only three days and to throw him in a big game in a home ground was a big ask and the first two overs was just that.
"It was about being firm on what we wanted: hit the middle of the wicket and bowl your cutters which is what we saw a bit during scouting. We were strong with him during that [strategic] break. It was just very instructional so that to take away any doubt from him and just do that and he did that well. Once he had confidence that it was working, he was able to get into that. He was fractionally full [early on] and that can be nerves and the whole environment. I was a bit worried we were going to be putting him in a situation which was going to be tough and he responded well.
Fleming believes that Kuggeleijn's impressive IPL introduction could help fill in the void created by the injury-enforced absences of Bravo and Ngidi, and David Willey, who has withdrawn from the tournament citing personal reasons. Fleming, however, hinted that Willey could return at the fag end of the season.
"[We] just have to back him [Kuggeleijn]. MS [Dhoni] is very supportive," Fleming said. "It is a culture where if it [the plan] hadn't worked, we are not scathing. We understand how tough it can be. When we bring someone in we look at what skills they bring and try to get the best out of them. Today was a massive step for him to be part of the group and to win a game. To be part of the last part of the game, to make a big contribution goes a long way in making you feel part of the group.
"We are a little bit thin; there's no doubt about it, so that's why the introduction of Scott was important just to see how thin we were. We have to work hard; at home we can get away with spinners. The bowlers are trying hard to make sure they can contribute and today they did. Keep that in mind that our spinners were outstanding as well. We know we have holes and we're just scrapping hard to hide them."