Captain Pooran, rookie Mayank dominate middle overs as LSG get off the mark

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Lucknow Super Giants 199 for 8 (de Kock 54, Krunal 43*, Curran 3-28) beat Punjab Kings 178 for 5 (Dhawan 70, Mayank 3-27, Mohsin 2-34) by 21 runs

Justin Langer has arrived in the IPL. It took just one game of tired old T20 cricket, and the consequent heavy defeat of course, for Lucknow Super Giants to burn that book of conservative T20 cricket and play with much higher intent. As a result they didn’t have the ideal players operating in the death overs of each innings, but they had done enough damage in the middle overs on both occasions to win by 21 runs.

The 103 that LSG scored in the middle overs is the second-highest in their history; both the efforts featured Nicholas Pooran and Marcus Stoinis batting a higher number of balls unlike in the first match when they were held back for the death overs. With the ball, LSG unleashed Mayank Yadav‘s extreme pace – highest being 155.8kmph – and awkward bounce to take five wickets for 84. As it turned out, they lost out on some runs in the final few overs and had to bowl Krunal Pandya in the 19th, but the game was over by then.

The enterprising start

It would be indulging in pop psychology to say if that meant Rahul batted with more intent because he had only one field to make an impact in, but the change was there for all to see. Having taken the dew on by batting first, LSG needed all the intent from everyone. Rahul began attacking from the fourth ball he faced, didn’t stop after hitting a six and a four in the next over, and Quinton de Kock batted the way he usually does.

The intent might have resulted in two wickets but LSG managed 54 runs in the powerplay.

Pooran, and best-laid plans

The first two overs after the powerplay suggested it might be difficult to take down spin, but in the third, Stoinis, batting much earlier than in the last game, punished Rahul Chahar’s errors in length brutally with two sixes, and got out trying for a third six in the same over.

The introduction of Pooran as early as in the ninth over meant Kings took off both their spinners despite Harpreet Brar’s four-run first over and a decent record against left-hand batters this IPL.

Two overs in, it was plain why spin was taken off. Pooran slogged a wrong’un from Bishnoi over the longer boundary for a six followed by a cut for four in front of square and then just a nonchalant loft back over his head for another six.

The slightly slower finish

This kind of batting can, at times, result in wickets. LSG had played only three overseas players in the first XI so their choice of the fourth would be between Ashton Turner and Naveen-ul-Haq. When de Kock fell in the 14th over for 53, or when Pooran did in the 16th for 42, LSG didn’t make any panicked move, trusting Naveen over the limited marginal impact a batter could make over Krunal and Ayush Badoni.

Krunal did his part of the job well by scoring 43 off 22. The last nine balls got LSG only 10 runs, but they had effectively decided the extra runs they could have got off such deliveries was not worth giving up middle-overs runs for.

Kings set off running

Under the lights, a bit of dew, and nice medium pace to work with, Shikhar Dhawan and Jonny Bairstow made a quick start to their chase, taking 61 in the first six overs. Dhawan got to a fifty off just 30 balls, the exact required rate to win the match. Like Stoinis did after the spin slowdown in the first innings, Bairstow broke the shackles with two sixes off Bishnoi in the ninth over.

Enter Mayank Yadav

Langer is not the only who “arrived” on Saturday night. Mayank is a 21-year-old fast bowler from Delhi who has had to struggle with injuries. LSG scouted him and looked after him while he was injured during the Ranji Trophy season. When they unleashed Mayank, Kings needed to go at pretty much the same asking rate as at the start of the innings and had all their wickets in hand.

They weren’t quite prepared for the unerring pace of Mayank, though. He kept bowling uncomfortable lengths, went past 155kmph, and took out three batters, all three with the short ball, all three late on the shot. Bishnoi did his job at the other end, bowling the 11th over for just three. Mohsin Khan kept the pressure up. An injury to Liam Livingstone, which reduced him to hobbling between the wicket, didn’t help Kings.

Dhawan went from 50 off 30 to caught on 70 off 50. He later acknowledged how he tried to use Mayank’s pace by moving around, and Mayank immediately started bowling yorkers at the stumps.

LSG kept going for wickets, which is acknowledgement that even the best can get hit at the death so they are probably better off bowling in phases that have more correlation between quality and outcomes. By the time that they went to that one “weak” over, LSG had 48 to defend in the last two. Krunal conceded only seven.

Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo

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