Cricket

IPL 2021: Unadkat, Morris, Miller in tales of redemption as RR finally get one over DC

  • Yash Jha
  • April 16th, 2021
  • 10:37:02 IST

The last time Rajasthan beat Delhi in a completed, 20-overs-a-side clash in the IPL, Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings were yet to be banned, Kolkata Knight Riders were defending champions, and the Mumbai Indians trio of Hardik Pandya-Krunal-Pandya-Jasprit Bumrah had a haul of zero titles.

The last time Rajasthan beat Delhi in any IPL game (a rain-reduced encounter at Jaipur on their return from suspension in 2018), Chris Morris and Rahul Tewatia were in the Delhi XI – alongside Glenn Maxwell, Colin Munro, Trent Boult and Mohammed Shami, with Gautam Gambhir still DD captain – and Ajinkya Rahane was leading the Royals.

Chris Morris and Jaydev Unadkat were key performers in RR's win over DC. Sportzpics

Chris Morris and Jaydev Unadkat were key performers in RR's win over DC. Sportzpics

From the fourth over of their innings on Thursday, up to the fourth ball of the penultimate over of the chase, it looked like that run will continue. But Chris Morris had other ideas, and that allowed the Royals to get off the mark in IPL 2021 with a tense victory over the Capitals in Mumbai.

Morris formed one-third of the framework behind the RR win, alongside Jaydev Unadkat and David Miller – three players who had a redemption story each of their own to tell.

The Royals’ redemption trio stand out in the highlights from match seven of IPL 2021.

The expected: Morris’ redemption

Yes, it made for a sensationalist’s dream: the most expensive auction purchase in the history of the tournament, denied strike as his captain took matters in his own hands. But two things about Sanju Samson’s decision to not take that single needed to be amply clear even before the final ball was delivered – it was Samson backing his amazing ability and tremendous touch on the day, and it wasn’t a statement, in any way, about Morris’ credentials with the bat.

These clarifications, fortunately, are only required for the wider masses and click-bait classes, and Morris had nothing to prove to his IPL employers – regardless of the finish on Sunday, or on Thursday.

Regardless, that was quite an incredible slap to the doubters on the outside from the South African, as he slapped those four match-winning sixes in the last two overs of the contest.

6-0-0-2-6-1 off Kagiso Rabada, followed by 2-6-0-6 off Tom Curran – Morris single-handedly took charge of the finish, smashing 29 off 10 balls with Rajasthan requiring 27 from 12. Only once in the history of the IPL has a batter scored more runs from the final 12 balls of a successful chase (MS Dhoni, 30 runs for CSK vs KXIP, Dharamsala 2010).

Why does it not come as a surprise? Morris entered this season with an overall scoring rate of 9.47 per over in the IPL, alongside a phenomenal boundary rate of one every 5.1 balls. In the death overs alone, Morris has scored at 10.57 per over in the IPL, and 10.07 through his T20 career.

The surprise: Unadkat’s redemption

Disclaimer: This is, by no means, an attempt to disparage a long-serving champion of the Indian domestic grind. It’s just facts.

The bare facts are that Unadkat had an economy rate of 10.05, a strike rate of 26.6, and an average of 44.48 in the IPL since the start of the 2018 campaign. And that the last time he conceded less than six runs per over in an IPL game was the 2017 final.

Add to that the other bare facts: pacers leaked nearly nine runs per over at the Wankhede since the start of IPL 2018, and more than 10 per over in the two games played here this season.

Even if you did believe that Unadkat would fight back this season, you probably wouldn’t have been anticipating the fightback to begin at this batting paradise, against this batting unit.

Yet, he struck the game’s most telling blows inside the first half an hour, removing openers Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan – on-song in DC’s opener against CSK on Saturday – with consecutive deliveries, before dismissing Rahane to leave the Capitals three-down in the Powerplay.

It came as part of a well thought through team strategy of taking the pace off from the left-arm-over angle, deployed by the Royals trio of Unadkat, Chetan Sakariya and Mustafizur Rahman.

Two of Unadkat’s wickets during his triple-strike were the result of disguised change in pace – even with the lack of pace in his regular deliveries considered. In his first spell, Unadkat bowled 16 deliveries out of 18 between a speed range of 126.7 kmph and 132.3 kmph. The two exceptions were the balls that got the better of Shaw and Rahane, delivered at 112.7 kmph and 109.9 kmph, respectively.

The man who couldn’t buy a good outing for the last three seasons had bowled the most economical four-over spell by a pacer at Wankhede in the IPL since 2015. Oh, and he added 11 handy runs with the bat – including what was just the 16th six of a career spanning 147 T20 games.

Don’t forget: Miller’s redemption

Ben Stokes wasn’t playing, and Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson were back in the hut. At 17/3 in the fourth over – soon to become 42/5 in the tenth – few would have placed a punt on the Royals.

The idea that RR are 1-1, and within inches of having been 2-0, without Jofra Archer and Stokes and any real runs from Buttler, is in itself, quite incredible. Unadkat may have set them on their way, and Morris may have taken them over the finish line – but this result was well beyond Rajasthan without Miller’s knock.

The South African’s sole appearance in his maiden season at RR last year ended in a run-out, without facing a ball, and that might not have changed had it not been for Stokes’ injury. Talk about grabbing the bull by the horns.

Miller came into the tournament on the back of some resplendent performances for the Proteas: back-to-back fifties in the two ODIs against Pakistan, including a 27-ball 50* in the first game, and a 45-ball 85* against the same opponent in his last T20I, a series-decider at Lahore in February. It didn’t take long to see why the Royals opted for him over Liam Livingstone.

The stroke-play was crisp, but the real standout in Miller’s 62 off 43 balls was his specific targeting of the DC attack: he scored 21 off 29 balls, with only one four, against Rabada, Chris Woakes, Tom Curran and R Ashwin; Avesh Khan and Marcus Stoinis, however, were taken apart for 41 runs off 14 balls.

The targeted onslaught allowed RR to stay afloat in the chase, despite the constant fall of wickets. The Royals went from 17/3 in 3.3 overs to 104/7 in 15.5 overs while Miller was in the middle – removing him, RR only added 25/3 from 5.1 overs during that phase.

All of a sudden, Rajasthan don’t look so thin on experienced batting options in the XI.

Decisive moments of magic in the field

Dhawan, DC’s leading run-getter of 2020, and top-scorer in their 2021 opener – caught, stunningly, by Sanju Samson behind the stumps.

Rishabh Pant, the captain, and the man rescuing the innings, batting on 51 off 31 balls with seven overs to spare – run-out, magnificently, by a Riyan Parag direct hit.

Lalit Yadav, IPL debutant, but partnering his skipper in DC’s rebuild, with a reputation for big-hitting in domestic cricket – caught, brilliantly, by a sprinting-and-balancing Rahul Tewatia.

Contrary to cliched belief, catches do not win matches as a rule of thumb in the shortest format of the game. Fielding is a value-add for any solid team, but to big moments in the field – good or bad – dramatically alter the course of a T20? Very rarely so.

Thursday comes very close to being an exception. They were three exceptional efforts from the Royals.

DC need to help the captain’s count

Twice in his first two matches as captain in the IPL, Rishabh Pant has not accounted for the full quota of overs for one of his best-performing resources on the day.

In the opener, against CSK, Chris Woakes finished with figures of 2/18 in three overs – the last of those three coming in the final over of the innings, despite Tom Curran and Marcus Stoinis (the sixth-bowling option) leaking runs.

Against the Royals, the same fate met Ashwin. With the slew of left-handers in the RR middle-order, Ashwin was having a field day, and pulling DC clear, having conceded only 14 in three overs. Instead of letting Ashwin finish his quota, with the left-handed duo of Miller and Tewatia in the middle, Pant gave the 13th over to Stoinis – and the sixth bowler was taken for 15 runs, in a momentum-shifting over. Ashwin, like Woakes in the first game, ended his day with an over left up his sleeve.

This isn’t an indictment of Pant; several seasoned skippers have been guilty of miscalculating their bowlers’ overs in the past, and several will be in the future too.

Delhi didn’t pay – at least not result-wise – for the first error, but they did for the second. The Capitals think-tank, replete with multiple captains on and off the field, could do well to keep their young captain’s count clear.

How much longer do DC persist with Rahane?

Let’s spell it out. In nine innings since transferring to Delhi Capitals, Ajinkya Rahane has scored 121 runs from 115 balls – averaging less than 14, while scoring at barely six per over. That 60 off those runs came in one innings alone doesn’t do much to improve the picture.

Is it a team-specific thing? Transfers can bomb, right?

Guess what? In the last four completed seasons of the IPL, from 2017 to 2020, Rahane has averaged 26.21 and scored 7.34 runs per over. The clincher? Of the 41 batters to have faced 500+ balls in these four seasons, no one has scored slower than Rahane.

It’s not like he’s producing the occasional big innings either. From 2012 to 2016, Rahane had 21 scores of 50+ in 73 innings (one every 3.5 knocks); in the last three editions, Rahane has crossed 50 four times in 35 innings. Worse still, three of those four 50+ scores have resulted in defeats for his team.

This isn’t quite adding up, and this really shouldn’t be DC’s Shreyas Iyer alternative for IPL 2021.

Updated Date: April 16, 2021 10:37:02 IST

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