Match Analysis

Avesh shows his worth by doing the tough job once again

Fast bowler strikes twice in the powerplay and then removes Pooran at the death to tip a thriller Super Giants' way

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Avesh Khan played the last season of the IPL in an attack that had Anrich Nortje breaking speed record, Kagiso Rabada threatening the purple cap, and the spinners R Ashwin and Axar Patel displaying their guile. Yet it was Avesh who bowled the most balls for Delhi Capitals at the death. In fact only Harshal Patel bowled more in that phase in the last IPL. That's more than not just his team-mates but stellar death bowlers such as Jasprit Bumrah, Dwayne Bravo, Bhuvneshwar Kumar among others.
That intense bidding war, which ended up at INR 10 crore, was well-earned, with Avesh having delivered those 23 overs for under nine an over. It's just a sweet coincidence that the team that Lucknow Super Giants eventually pipped was Sunrisers Hyderabad, who suffered at the hands of Avesh on Monday.
Before this match, though, there was his debut for Super Giants when he failed to defend 10 in the last over, which he said left him sad. Then, though, comes the realisation that as a bowler bowling at the death in the IPL - often with a ball that resembles a bar of soap - you can't win them all. "I knew there are 14 matches in the IPL, and there would be opportunities again, so I have to be ready for them," Avesh said.
As luck would have it, the opportunity arrived in Super Giants' third match. Avesh had already put Super Giants ahead in the game with the wickets of openers Kane Williamson and Abhishek Sharma. Williamson fell trying to ramp a slower ball, a delivery Avesh knew was going to work because he had seen some grip when his side was batting.
During the strategic timeout in the second half of the match, Super Giants' mentor Gautam Gambhir told Avesh he had to win the match for the team. "Just bowl your best ball," Gambhir told him, according to Avesh. "Just pick your best ball, back yourself and execute it. Gautam bhai, Andy Bichel, Andy Flower, KL [Rahul] bhai - they always tell me you are our main bowler. You will win us matches."
When Avesh began the 18th over, a win looked distant. Sunrisers needed 33 with Nicholas Pooran looking dangerous and six wickets in hand at the ground that has seen the most sixes this IPL.
Avesh tried to repeat what he had learned earlier and bowled into the pitch only for the ball to sit up nicely for Pooran to hit a six. That took Sunrisers' win probability well beyond 60%. And if you have been at the receiving end not long ago, you can start doubting yourself.
"I still had five balls to bowl," Avesh said. "I thought I have to focus on executing them. I thought I will bowl just the yorkers now. It worked."
These weren't the perfect yorkers. The one that got Pooran was a thigh-high full toss. The one that accounted for Abdul Samad was just short of being a yorker. But that's how cricket goes sometimes: there will be days when he will nail the yorkers but they will run away for four off the inside edge. That he had been trusted to do just this by his last franchise, that four franchises fought over him at the auction, that he got this over despite the defeat two matches ago tells you this is no fluke.
On the ESPNcricinfo smart stats metric to measure a player's impact on the result, Avesh ended up with a score of 121.57, which was 40 more than the next-best. He is consistently being chosen to do the most difficult job more often than established superstars. His teams certainly seem to know his worth.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo