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IPL 2017: Gujarat Lions' insipid bowling attack helped Chris Gayle find form

Life is so often about routine. When you go to bed, when you get up, when you get off your fat backside and make it to the gym. It doesn’t take long for you to find a way of doing things and stick to it. Humans are creatures of habit.

Chris Gayle plays a shot against the Gujarat Lions. Sportzpics/IPL

Chris Gayle plays a shot against the Gujarat Lions. Sportzpics/IPL

The routine that the Gujarat Lions have found for themselves involves turning up at various cricket grounds around India and bowling badly enough to play batsmen into form. On Tuesday night, the venue was Rajkot and the lucky batsman on the receiving end of what a curmudgeonly former England opener might call “buffet bowling” was Chris Gayle, as his Royal Challengers Bangalore racked up a match-winning 213 for four after losing the toss and being asked to bat first.

Before this match against the Lions there had been some runs for Gayle, 60 from three innings in this IPL, but he was not at his destructive best. In fact, he hasn’t even been an automatic selection in the 2017 tournament. The friendly efforts of the Lions bowlers allowed Gayle to race to 77 from 38 balls.

Such is the statistical supremacy of Gayle in T20 cricket that he is the Bradman of the format. When he reached three runs in this innings he became the first man to score 10,000 T20 runs. The next highest run-getter is the best part of 2,500 runs behind him.

Gayle has the most runs, the most hundreds, the most fifties, the most fours and the most sixes in the format. Among those with over 7,000 T20 runs he has the best average and the best strike rate. His powers are on the wane as he heads towards his 38th birthday, but Gayle is far from finished. When he gets it right he is still the most destructive batsman to ever play T20.

There was little in the Lions attack to trouble Gayle, and after he nervously ran three singles to bring up 10,000 career runs he began hitting through the line with the ease to which we have become accustomed. The only bowler who seemed to find a way to contain him was Basil Thampi, but that may have been because of his evident nerves about that big landmark at the start of his innings.

Thampi was the best of the Lions bowlers, and once again showed decent pace and landed his yorkers well. He seems to be improving with each match, which is good news for the Lions and good news for India going forward.

The rest of the Lions bowling was just, meh. It wasn’t that bad, it was just insipid and completely lacking in penetration. With wickets not coming to slow down the run rate it allowed Gayle and Virat Kohli to set the platform that allowed them to post a total north of 200.

As it was this Lions attack were lucky that this is a Kohli that is still finding his form after a disappointing Test series against Australia and an injury layoff. A fully fit and in-form Kohli against these Lions bowlers on a pitch this good would be like a kid torturing ants with a magnifying glass. Kohli still managed 64 from 50 balls. He even looked a little bit like the batsman that was in “God mode” for the whole of last season’s IPL.

Once again Andrew Tye looked pretty good if not remarkable, keeping the scoring rate down somewhat, but he was unable to re-find the wicket-taking touch that saw him claim a five-wicket haul and a hat-trick in his first match for the Lions. But Tye alone isn’t enough to hold back the scoring rate.

By the time it was the Lions’ turn to bat, the required rate was already the best part of 11-an-over. For them to chase that down they needed a partnership from the top order. They proceeded to lose Dwayne Smith for just one run to the 8th ball of their innings. That meant it was Brendon McCullum or bust. Gayle may be the leading T20 run-getter of all time, McCullum is the man in second place. He could do this on his own, but it would be remarkable. Even as McCullum lost partners throughout the Lions’ innings he kept going and did not let the run rate to creep up.

McCullum made 72 from 44 balls, and when he left the crease the chances of his team winning went with him. However, no one had told that to Ishan Kishan who blasted 39 from 16 balls. In the last match, Kishan was fairly rancid, making just 11 from 14 balls. Here he launched four sixes going at a strike rate of almost 250.

In the end, the Lions lost by 21 runs, a significant margin, but you can’t help but think that a slightly more impressive bowling attack could have found at least 22 runs in the field. The batsmen managed 192 runs in their 20 overs, which would be a winning total in most matches. When your bowlers have been launched to all parts it is very difficult to over-achieve with the bat every time to cover up for their failings.

A video of Dwayne Bravo surfaced showing him practicing. For the Lions his return can’t come soon enough. Whether it will be enough is a matter for debate.

Updated Date: Apr 19, 2017 08:00 AM

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