It took just two matches for Delhi Capitals’ bowling to come a full circle. After a string of lacklustre performances, the DC bowlers had come up with a fine effort against Royal Challengers Bangalore to qualify in second place.
Just three days later, in the first qualifier in Dubai, the mighty Mumbai Indians batsmen carted the DC bowlers all around the park to rack up 200. MI ended up winning the match by 57 runs to enter its sixth IPL final. But one constant across two matches was the first-rate performance of R. Ashwin. The ‘Mankading’ of Jos Buttler in last year’s IPL and his repeated attempts at being innovative — like stopping in his stride, bowling leg-spin, etc. — have distracted from the perception of his success as a world-class off-spinner. Perhaps he was reacting to the expectations that Twenty20 as a format places on bowlers — to ‘disrupt’ and ‘mix it up’.
But his deliveries to prise out Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock rolled back the years and showed there was still place for classic spin bowling in the shortest format of the game.
He beat Kohli with flight, tempted him out of his crease and forced him to hole out at deep mid-wicket. The ball that dismissed Rohit was even better. It formed a lovely curve the moment it left his fingers, the kind of which one can see from Ashwin regularly in Test cricket, dipped just in time, turned off the turf before hitting the pad plumb in front.
De Kock fell in similar fashion to Ashwin, foxed by a loopy delivery that dipped suddenly. de Kock had taken the bait and advanced down the wicket only to find himself nowhere near the pitch of the ball. He was forced to go very hard at the ball but ended up miscuing it.
Ashwin’s figures of 4-0-29-3 against MI were outstanding, especially in a match where four other frontline DC bowlers combined for figures that read one for 163 from 15 overs.
Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 200 for 5 (Kishan 55 not out, Suryakumar 51, de Kock 40, Ashwin 3-29) beat Delhi Capitals 143 for 8 (Stoinis 65, Axar 42, Bumrah 4-14, Boult 2-9) by 57 runs.