In Hot Seat, we present our writers with a tricky cricketing scenario and ask them to captain their way out of it. This week: who do you have bowl to two of the most attacking short-format batsmen of them all.
Scenario: David Warner and Jonny Bairstow have gone berserk in the powerplay of an IPL game on a flat track in Hyderabad. They have scored 65 off the first five overs against your all-time IPL dream XI - Warner is on 35 off 16, Bairstow on 25 off 14. Mitchell Starc has gone for 24 off two overs, Jasprit Bumrah for 13 off one, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, playing for the all-time XI against his own team, for 28 off two. You can now select any IPL bowler, present or past (Sunrisers bowlers included), to bowl the sixth. Whom do you pick?
Gaurav Sundararaman: Shane Warne
Warne is a master of setting batsmen up. Since this is the last over of the powerplay, there is a good chance the batsmen will continue to attack. Bairstow's record against quality legspin in the IPL is not the best. He has been dismissed five times in ten innings. He and Warner are likely to respect Warne's reputation, and that could work to the bowler's advantage. Warne's variations and mind games will at the least help control the scoring rate, even if he is not able to get a breakthrough.
Matt Roller: Mitchell McClenaghan
Much as I'm wary of bringing another seamer on, given three of the IPL's best have been sent to all parts, Warner and Bairstow are as good as anyone against spin, so I'll stick with pace on the ball. The second half of the powerplay is such a tough time to bowl - you're generally coming on against relatively well-set batsmen, with the field up - so I'll want a specialist, and a wicket-taker, at a time when I desperately need to break the partnership.
Step forward, Mitchell McClenaghan. Over the last three IPLs, he has taken 11 wickets in the second half of the powerplay and has the best strike rate of anyone (among those who have a minimum of five wickets) in that phase of the game. McClenaghan is one of two IPL bowlers, along with Umesh Yadav, to have dismissed Warner more than once in the powerplay since 2015 and he should be a threat targeting Bairstow's stumps: Bairstow matches up relatively poorly against left-arm pace in white-ball cricket and is fallible against a full inswinger.
Alan Gardner: Harbhajan Singh
First impression here is that quick bowling isn't the way to go - if Starc and Bumrah are getting hammered, there aren't many higher-calibre weapons to turn to. Much as I'm tempted to play the ultimate maverick card and call on Ravi Bopara's dobblers, he's not had much recent IPL experience, so instead I'm going to go for spin. Only four times in ten innings during the 2019 IPL were Bairstow and Warner separated inside the powerplay - three times it was a spinner doing the job. In fact, dig a bit deeper and only one bowler dismissed both Bairstow and Warner last year: Harbhajan Singh. Okay, Warner averages 50.82 against right-arm spin, so there's an element of risk involved, but Bairstow is slightly more susceptible to it than other types of bowling. On top of that, in the last five years of IPL, no one has taken more wickets than Harbhajan's six in the sixth over. As our recent interview demonstrated, CSK's venerable doosra merchant remains one of the savviest T20 bowlers out there.
Deivarayan Muthu: R Ashwin
With all my front-line quicks going for runs, I would turn to my frontline
offspinner, Ashwin. The last time he came up against Warner on a similarly flat pitch at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, he restricted him to 14 off 12 balls and had him hole out. Ashwin's overall record against Warner in the IPL is pretty impressive as well, so I'd match him up with the left-hander once again.
Harbhajan Singh has dismissed Warner more than anyone else in the league, but I'd still go with Ashwin because he can also take the ball away from the right-handed Bairstow. The England opener wasn't too comfortable against legspin in the last IPL, which is why South Africa threw the new ball to Imran Tahir during the World Cup and removed him for a golden duck. If Ashwin gets a decent crack at Bairstow, I'd ask him to tease him with a couple of loopy legbreaks or drifters and then slide one back in to mess with his timing and head. Even if Ashwin doesn't get a wicket, I'd back him to use the bigger square boundaries to his advantage and squeeze in a tight, defensive over.
Saurabh Somani: Jofra Archer
Both Warner and Bairstow have very good records in the sixth over of T20s when they have opened. The best bet against them is a right-arm pace bowler. Warner has fallen nine times to right-arm quicks in the sixth over of a match, from 231 balls faced. Bairstow has never been out in the sixth over when he has opened, but his strike rate against right-arm pace (171.33) is lower than against other kinds of bowling. Since Jasprit Bumrah has already been tonked for a few, the man I'll turn to is Jofra Archer, whose extra pace I need on a flat track. He hasn't bowled much to either man in a competitive setting, though Bairstow will be familiar with him, of course.
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