The KSCA ground at Alur hosting this game is actually the lowest-lying of the three, and that meant overnight rain forced the latest start here, with the first ball bowled at 11:30 am. Despite the wet outfield, the pitch bore a barren, run-friendly look and it was no surprise Punjab captain Abhishek Sharma opted to bat.
Madhya Pradesh were quick to read the conditions. With virtually no swing on offer, they drew their lengths back and only used fuller deliveries as a way to break the pattern of short or back-of-a-length deliveries.
Abhishek appeared to be carrying his IPL form into his innings of 47, studded with five fours and two massive sixes. Datey set up his wicket beautifully, through the 24th over of the innings. He softened him up with short balls, and slipped in a sharp bouncer off the penultimate ball. The last ball of the over was fuller and a touch wider, inviting the drive, and Rajat Patidar at first slip gleefully accepted the catch as it flew off the Punjab captain’s blade.
The IPL star Patidar actually had an ordinary day in the field, fluffing two chances at slip. In fact, he dropped both Abhishek and Gurkeerat Singh Mann. The latter was dropped off the bowling of Kumar Kartikeya, himself an IPL star after his debut season with Mumbai Indians. The “left-arm everything” bowler was the unluckiest in his team, with two of the four catches dropped by his team on the day coming off his bowling alone.
Much like he did with Abhishek, Datey used the short-short-full formula to snare another experienced batter in Anmolpreet Singh. Having pinned him back with short and back-of-a-length balls, he lured him into an indiscreet drive with a change in length, only for mid-off to complete the catch. It was more the bowler’s victory than any major lapse from the batter, and for the third time in the day. Just like that, Datey had blown away the Punjab top order with all three wickets against his name.
Between innings, Gaurav suggested that the pitch was a flat one and there wasn’t much assistance for the bowlers, who needed to try different things to pick up wickets. Madhya Pradesh captain Aditya Shrivastava played a commendable role in this with his clever usage of the fast bowlers, giving them short spells to keep them fresh on a sticky June afternoon. His bowlers responded magnificently, mixing their lengths and bowling tight lines to give the Punjab batters nothing to work with. If Madhya Pradesh can go on to win a place in the semi-finals, much credit should go to their seam attack, who more than made up for the injury-enforced absence of the experienced Ishwar Pandey, and the IPL’s latest sensation Kuldeep Sen.