April 22, 2015 12:43:38 am
It was in the IPL where Shaun Marsh had first made his name internationally with his batting. He would stand beside the line and knife through the line. Unfortunately the same technique had exposed him at the international stage, especially back in Australian pitches, but he was here again in India and it was time for him to impose himself again. In the phase before the Super Over, he was good, playing his game and setting a base for the chase but it did look too little until Miller and Patel did what they did. It was in the Super Over that Marsh’s efforts screamed through. It was where his simple technique worked to his advantage. A full toss above waist high from Morris was carved away to the cover point boundary; he had just cleared his front foot a bit, as he does, and freed his arms. The next ball was short and was pulled away to square-leg and the third one was the best. It was a full toss alright but he managed to spank it ferociously to the straight boundary. Fifteen runs had rushed in and it was enough in the end.
Johnson can be erratic sometimes but when he gets it right, he can be deadly. As Rajasthan found in the Super Over chase. For some reason, Shane Watson decided to go retro. He moved outside leg stump, exposed all the stumps, and went for the big swing but Johnson’s Yorker put the issue beyond him. The ball screamed towards the base of the middle stump and beat the desperate waft and crashed into the stumps. After spearing couple more pacy deliveries he went for a slower one — not only did James Faulkner fail to connect with his slog but in the panic of the moment, he stepped outside the crease and couldn’t turn back in time to beat the throw from the ‘keeper. Game over.
It seemed a lost cause as the equation read 133 runs 68 balls when he came in but he didn’t have to go all frenetic from the word go as Shaun Marsh was still in there. Marsh, in a lovely stroke-filled innings, knocked off a few runs before he went and it all came down to Marsh in the fifth ball of the 16th over. The equation read 66 from 26, a steep ask even in this mad world of T20. James Faulkner, known for his variations, went for a back-of-the-hand slower one but Miller was ready. He picked it up early, opened his stance up, waited that extra instant for the ball to arrive before bludgeoning it over deep midwicket. Faulkner responded with a short ball which was returned by the fans beyond square-leg.
Wriddhiman Saha used his crease well, retreating far back to create his own length, and slammed three fours in the next over before he got out and handed the baton back to Miller. It was 40 from 18 now and suddenly the target looked gettable. It was Deepak Hooda with his slow stuff and to his credit he didn’t bowl that badly. The first one was fullish, trying to york the advancing Miller, who seemed to be moving around but somehow the bat came under the ball and he picked it up rather nonchalantly over midwicket. Off the fifth ball, Miller repeated the rigmarole. Again he went down the track, again Hooda tried to ping his feet and yet again, Miller unfurled that sweet flick of his and the ball soared over for another six. Miller fell next ball, though, slicing a wide delivery outside off to sweeper cover.
For a while, in fact until the final ball of the innings, it seemed he might turn out to be killjoy for Punjab. He drove over-pitched deliveries for singles and seemed to reverse the momentum. Even the two’s he took in the fourth and fifth ball of the final over – Punjab had needed 14 – appeared like game-breakers as the thought surfaced up that it would have been better had Mitchell Johnson come on strike. And then, it all turned in the final delivery. Until then Faulkner was full and either just outside off or straight but he went for a delivery well outside off as his final delivery. Mistake. Axar got the room he wanted and sliced it up and over and for a one-bounce four that tied the game.
Mitchell Johnson is a bully. Yet somehow, for some reason, Ajinkya Rahane, the otherwise polite, shy and almost reluctant savant, has made it his mission over the last four months to not just go after Johnson, but show the burly Western Australian his place.
It started during the Boxing Day Test when Rahane walloped Johnson with three audacious boundaries. On Tuesday at the Motera stadium, Rahane was waiting. He saw off the first three deliveries, one of which even struck him on the pads. And off the next five deliveries he faced from the left-armer, four were sent screaming to the boundary.
By going after Punjab’s kingpin-just like he had done at the MCG-he was not only setting up a platform for plunder, the Mumbai lad was also giving the opposition captain major headaches. Johnson returned for Round 2 and won this round, getting him off the next ball for a 54-ball 74 and went on to have the biggest laugh of the night when he served up fiery stuff in the Super Over.
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