IPL 2022: Bowlers sealing the deal in the powerplay | Cricket

Bulky bats, small boundaries and range-hitting are now T20 lingo. Swing and hit-the-deck bowlers are not so frequently used. But the current IPL season has reinforced how these high impact pacers using traditional red-ball skills are breaking the match open in the initial overs when batters look to cash in on field restrictions, which increases wicket-taking opportunities.

Very few teams are comfortable yet to tee off from ball one to get ahead in the game, a batting philosophy employed by Punjab Kings this year but which has yielded mixed results. The T20 powerplay is only of six overs. While the acquired ODI instinct is to capitalise by attacking when the field is in, batters become more measured when skilled bowlers counter-attack using tested bowling methods—swing till it lasts or bang the new ball on good lengths.

Rajasthan Royals pacers Trent Boult and Prasidh Krishna did just that on Sunday against Lucknow Super Giants, bowling the six overs between them to break the back of the chase.

“Prasidh has been bowling well throughout the tournament for us. So, each over of his is important. But I thought if he can get KL Rahul out at that stage (6th over)… normally I give the ball to Ashwin. But with the fast bowlers doing well, I thought why not use one more over. It worked this time,” RR captain Sanju Samson explained.

Defending 178 on a batting-friendly surface, Krishna’s dismissal of Rahul came in the final over of powerplay. It was preceded by Boult pushing LSG back through the wickets of Quinton de Kock and Ayush Badoni with his swing. On song in the tournament, Rahul only managed a quiet 19-ball 10. Yet the learning he took was not to be more attacking the next time, but play the good bowlers out.

“We need to work hard on our game and make sure when the ball is moving and you are facing quality bowlers find a way to stay in there and give your team a good start. In the back, we can always get runs,” LSG skipper KL Rahul said.

Very few bowlers ask tougher questions than Boult in the powerplay. In the past three IPLs, the Kiwi left-arm pacer has taken the most wickets (28) in that phase. The white Kookabura does not swing much, sometimes only for an over. But early wickets are gold, particularly in a tense run chase.

“I have a pretty simple role with the ball. I try to pitch the ball up as much as I can,” said Boult. “Some days it swings more than others. But it’s nice to contribute with early wickets and we know how crucial that is.” He did that to LSG in their previous encounter by getting Rahul and K Gowtham out in the first two balls of the match before Krishna set them back further with another wicket in the powerplay. A three-wicket powerplay has a lasting impact on the rest of the innings.

Number two on the list behind Boult is Mohammed Shami. The Gujarat Titans pacer was equally lethal with the new ball for PBKS and has 22 wickets in the last three seasons in the powerplay. This year, his 11 wickets make him joint No 1 with Chennai Super Kings’ Mukesh Choudhary. “These days no one is afraid of pace. Your swing, line and length are the most crucial in powerplay. If you can bowl in the right zone, then you can get away. Else, T20 is such a fast game that you are not safe anywhere,” Shami dissected his approach.

In the early days in IPL, Shami had pegged LSG back with a three-wicket powerplay spell. Left-armer Choudhary, who also relies on swing, has twice picked up three wickets in the powerplay against Mumbai Indians. Sunrisers Hyderabad’s South African left-arm Marco Jansen did that to Royal Challengers Bangalore. In each of these matches, barring one, batting teams lost. On that solitary occasion Choudhary couldn’t seal a CSK win, MI left-arm pacer Daniel Sams had served a triple punch of his own in the first innings to skittle out CSK for 97.

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