McGrath still at the top of his game

Like Mohammad Ali, the boxing legend who used to spend hours painstakingly scrawling out his spidery autograph, Glenn McGrath has reproduced his signature deliveries for almost 15 years

Cricinfo staff

Like Ol Man River, McGrath just keeps rollin' along © Getty Images
Yo Mahesh is a stripling in the shade of a giant sequoia, but on Wednesday night he actually conceded one run less than Glenn McGrath from his four overs. For most of the 90 minutes though, he and pretty much every other pace bowler playing in this competition would have been absorbing a masterclass in the art of limited-overs bowling. Like his old mate in baggy green, Shane Warne, McGrath has been out of the game for a year, but you wouldn't have known it if you've flown back from Mars and watched him bowl at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
Like Mohammad Ali, the boxing legend who used to spend hours painstakingly scrawling out his spidery autograph, McGrath has reproduced his signature deliveries for almost 15 years. Not for him the beguiling variety of a Wasim Akram or the hair-raising pace of Brett Lee. The McGrath method has always been about perfect calibration, of pinpointing the centimetres outside off stump where the batsman is most vulnerable.
From the minute he landed the first ball of the innings in the McGrath corridor, the Bangalore Royal Challengers would have known what they were up against. "They had to come out and play shots," he said later, referring to the security of the 191 runs. Even then though, there was little fiddling with the tried and tested. Praveen Kumar, a worthwhile experiment at the top of the order, did thump one over cover, but as he has done so many times over the past decade, McGrath had the last word.
Ross Taylor, whose explosive strokeplay will surely be missed now that he's off to join New Zealand's tour of England, also attempted to disrupt the McGrath rhythm with a powerful shot or two, but then ruefully discovered the dangers of going cross-batted against a man whose reputation was based as much on the ability to extract bounce as it was on the accuracy.
Wasim Jaffer was next, with steepling bounce again doing the trick. The speed gun never went past 130 kph, and the obsession with it was put into perspective by McGrath's uncanny knack of landing the ball in what every bowler now refers to 'the right areas'.
His last act was the finest though. Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid, a combination perfectly equipped to bat through a full day in a Test match, had shown that quality can prevail in any form of the game with a superb 87-run partnership. Though the asking rate was still steep, Bangalore had seven wickets in hand to mount a late charge.
Virender Sehwag, whose bowling changes and composure impressed yet again, then played his ace, throwing the ball to McGrath for the 16th over. A slower one and a yorker kept Kallis to one run from the first two balls, and when Dravid then gave himself some room for the big loft, McGrath calmly slipped the ball outside off. "Have a go", he seemed to say. Dravid did, miscued it, and Sehwag made no mistake running across to mid-off.
McGrath wasn't the only ANZAC hero out there though. Daniel Vettori will play no further part in the tournament, but his farewell spell had Bangalore in a bind. Dravid spoke later of the overs from Vettori and Yo Mahesh that effectively settled the contest, and Sehwag too was gushing in his praise of a man he called one of the greatest T20 bowlers.
While Sehwag answered questions in Hindi, a relaxed McGrath sat and grinned, with an "I agree" quip after one Sehwag reply inducing peals of mirth. "I'm a happily married man. I don't look at girls anymore," he said with a big grin when asked about the missing cheerleaders. "For an old bloke, I've enjoyed every single minute of it [the IPL]."
When asked about his team's travails, Dravid spoke of the missing X-factor. On Wednesday night, it wasn't missing, it was on the other side. A familiar face, a nemesis from another time and place. Like Ol Man River, McGrath just keeps rollin' along.