CSK find new star in Lungi Ngidi on pacy pitch while a permanent star and a few left-field manoeuvres with their batting order help knock Kings XI Punjab out.
CSK’s new star: “When Chahar bowled the first over, I couldn’t stop grinning on the side,” is what Lungi Ngidi had to say at the end of the match. The whole of Chennai’s been grinning though ever since he was picked by the franchise during the auction in January. It started off mainly due to his wonderfully Tamil-sounding name and its funny translation.
But of course the Rs 50 lakh price — which even then looked like a very discounted bargain — that his franchise paid for him had more to do with the vast ability he possesses with the ball. And while he’d shown glimpses of it in his first four outings in the IPL, the young South African tyro produced a virtuoso performance in the final league encounter of the season.
He finished with the most economical spell of the season, giving away only 10 runs in his 4 overs and, for good measure, snared four wickets. Those included Chris Gayle and KL Rahul, basically 80 per cent of KXIP’s batting stocks this season, in a breathtaking spell with the new ball.
The reason he was grinning though at the start of the match was the patch of green on the wicket in Pune, and Chahar’s over where the ball seemed to be receiving the kind of assistance you generally don’t see during the IPL.
And soon it was CSK who were grinning, as Ngidi tore through KXIP’s top order. Gayle was the first to go, and he walked off on his own in fact, after getting a glove down the leg side to a rising length delivery. Then came a spate of deliveries from Ngidi which were straight out of any highlights package you’ll see of a Test match first session, especially in the southern hemisphere—as length balls exploded off the surface and curved away from hapless right-handers.
One of Ngidi’s greatest strengths, of course, is getting the ball to straighten despite his angle of delivery, which should suggest that the ball tails back in sharply.
And after having set Rahul up with a bunch of those that moved the other way, Ngidi went for his stock ball. Rahul by now was too far sucked into Ngidi’s ploy and ended up shouldering arms to a ball that kept coming in with the angle and went on to shatter his stumps, and Punjab’s hopes of making a backdoor entry into the playoffs.
The South African would return to then take two wickets in his final over at the death — captain R Ashwin too falling to a Test match dismissal — and close out one of the most fiery spells of IPL XI.
By the way, Ngidi’s spell did inspire the Punjab bowlers to return the favour, which they did in their respective first spells. Both Mohit Sharma and Ankit Rajpoot took off from where the South African had left off, and produced a few eye-catching deliveries, some that resulted in wickets too, to send a shudder through the CSK dug-out. Rajpoot’s delivery to Sam Billings though was the stand-out as he got the ball to straighten from middle stump to hit off.
And you know a batsman’s been completely left in its wake when he shoots a flabbergasted glance back towards the pitch after being cleaned up like Billings did here.
Permanent star and left-field manoeuvres: It wasn’t the kind of pitch that Suresh Raina would term as being the most comfortable to bat on. It wasn’t bouncy enough for the fast bowlers to keep aiming for his head, which has now become a norm whenever he’s at the crease.
But there was enough movement off it and a sense of sponginess, that doesn’t suit Raina’s free-flowing strokeplay, to make life difficult. And for nearly three quarters of his match-winning knock, CSK’s premier batsman did struggle to get going.
He was, however, helped in his cause by a couple of, what can be best termed as, out-of-the-box promotions in the batting order. Harbhajan Singh walked in at No.5 and swung his bat around. Then Chahar walked out to bat at the fall of the 4th wicket, and there were few who were grinning, unless it was one of those completely stupefied grins. The Rajasthan-bred fast bowler though made the difference with a cameo of 39 in 20 to nullify Punjab’s surge with the new ball. By then, Raina had batted himself in and got a gist of it too. It meant that the stage was set for him to take his team home, which he did with an assault on Andrew Tye in the 19th over. He hit two sixes, in trademark fashion too, in the early half of the over before adding two boundaries and taking his team to the brink before MS Dhoni did his usual routine of finishing the match off with a stunning six.