It took the sharp mind of Keemo Paul to spark the turnaround that Delhi Capitals (DC) managed against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Sunday. It is the kind of stuff that teams dream of — and their opponents are wary of. For someone who can crank up the express pace, Keemo Paul produced a variety of slower ones to make the home chase come off the hinge.
The phase in which he bowled in tandem with leg-spinner Amit Mishra — and it must be said that the latter delivered a crafty performance in his three overs despite being wicket-less — was the time when Sunrisers Hyderabad could have kicked on after their openers had laid a solid platform. It was the time when Delhi Capitals was driven to acquire greater belief that the game could be won.
While the Sunrisers middle-order meltdown did not come as a total shock, it was surprising that their home batsmen did not counter the drying up of boundaries. They had seen this happen during the Delhi Capitals innings and yet they were unprepared.
Despite starting the second half of their innings with batsmen of the calibre of Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant at the crease, the visiting team managed to add a mere 68 runs to the 87 they had scored in the first 10 overs. Sunrisers Hyderabad had scored fewer in their first 10 overs but needed a sound plan to avoid that.
On the evidence of Sunday night’s showing, it can be said the Keemo Paul bowled with the guile that would make a top-notch spinner proud. On a track that offered bounce as a key weapon to the fast bowlers, he took the pace off the ball to confound the batsmen, unsure of what to expect, and lure them to their downfall with temptation.
He first got Sunrisers' best batsman of the night, Jonny Bairstow, to scoop a catch to Kagiso Rabada at long-off. The delivery was enticing enough for Bairstow to attempt a loft over extra-cover but it kept drifting away from the right-hander so much that the batsman could not exercise control over the shot. It was the breakthrough that Delhi needed badly.
Paul continued the business of entrapment when he served up what appeared to be a juicy half-volley, inviting Sunrisers captain Kane Williamson to try and take the aerial route. The delivery arrived later than Williamson expected and ended up as a mistimed stroke to mid-off where Rabada lunged to his right to take a good catch.
With leg-spinner Amit Mishra doing his share of work to stifle the Sunrisers chase with his craft, it was like watching two quality slow bowlers at work, notwithstanding Paul’s long run-up. It was when Chris Morris replaced the West Indian paceman for an over that David Warner freed his arms and took two fours with a pull and a cover drive to ease some pressure.
It drove Delhi Capitals skipper Shreyas Iyer to quickly summon Keemo Paul back to the bowling crease. He did not disappoint, engineering debutant Ricky Bhui’s fall. Like the others before him, the young batsman believed he could belt the leather off the ball when Keemo Paul enticed him with a slower one outside the off-stump. All he managed was a top-edge to Axar Patel at point.
By the time the Guyanese dismissed Bhui for a painstaking 7 off 12 deliveries, the stage was set for Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris to come and wreak havoc with the rest of the Sunrisers batting. For the local fans, the collapse was unseemly and shocking, but it was not something that was happening for the first time this season.
However, with Sunrisers deciding to leave the experienced but out-of-form Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan from the XI to include youngsters Ricky Bhui and Abhishek Sharma, the middle order collapse included some new faces. The home team seemed to pay a big price for not sending in Vijay Shankar to bat at the fall of Williamson’s wicket.
When you look at the scorecard and see that Vijay Shankar contributed a mere 1 run and fell to the second delivery that he faced, some could be misled into believing that the batting order did not make a difference. However, it does not take much to figure out that the pressure of batting at 78 for two in the 12th over is vastly different to batting at 101 for three in the 16th over.
Delhi Capitals were not complaining about the tactical error that emerged from the Sunrisers Hyderabad dug-out. They knew they had got their foot in the door and had the firepower to prise it open. Rabada and Morris picked up wickets by the heap to send Sunrisers spiraling to doom and Delhi Capitals to their third successive away win.
Left-arm paceman Khaleel Ahmed marked his return to competitive cricket with a three-wicket haul, Rabada claimed four for 22 and Morris scalped three in an over but it was the sight of Keemo Paul using a spinner’s line of thinking on a track designed to offer the faster bowlers some assistance that stood out. Yes, his bowling was magically alluring.