More often than not, it all boils down to the last two overs in a T20 game. With the match on the line, it comes down to the nerves and the execution of plans. Death bowling is a highly specialized, nerve-wracking job. Get it wrong, your team can suffer a humiliating defeat. Get it right and you wear the crown.
The two play-off games went down to the wire and they saw reputations being made and broken. Harshal Patel enhanced his reputation while Prasidh Krishna went into meltdown.
In Patel, RCB have a gem, who came out with his reputation enhanced in the Eliminator against the Lucknow Super Giants. Despite bowling the tough overs in the high-scoring encounter, he finished with figures of 1/25 to help RCB secure a 14-run win. In partnership with Josh Hazlewood, he helped RCB defend their total with the equation down to 41 off 18 balls. Patel gave away just eight runs and picked the wicket of Marcus Stoinis in the 18th, from the other end Hazlewood conceded 9 in the 19th while picking up the big wickets of KL Rahul and Krunal Pandya and in the last over, Patel restricted LSG to nine run.
Describing Patel’s importance to his side, RCB captain Faf du Plessis told the broadcaster: “He is the joker in the pack, isn’t he? He is a high-pressure time bowler and every single time I am under pressure I can go to him. He told me that I want the pressure over, which was one of my first conversations with him.”
It can also go terribly wrong though and we saw that happen in the first playoff game. While Patel was the toast of the team, Prasidh Krishna had a forgettable outing. With Gujarat needing 16 runs off the last over, Royals would have bet on Prasidh defending it for them. On Tuesday, however, the plans went awry.
For most of the tournament, Prasidh had found success in the crucial overs with his gameplan of trying to bowl beyond the hitting arc of the batter, making him stretch or following him when he backed away to make room. But he lost his nerve against David Miller. After being smacked for a six first ball from outside the off stump, he went straight at Miller, trying to get him with a change of pace but the left-hander was ready and finished the game with three sixes.
It’s about what to bowl when, Patel explained after the LSG performance. Patel himself had come under pressure in the 18th over as he gave away six wides (including five wides off one ball). However, he changed his plan and conceded just two more runs in that over and also took the wicket of Marcus Stoinis.
“First of all, yes, I was nervous, there is no doubt about that. If you are defending 34 off 18 balls, then you’re going to be nervous around it, but I knew when I gave away six runs without bowling a ball… gave away those wides, I knew that the wide yorker won’t work. Rahul) and Stoinis out. Fortunately, I got Stoinis out at the boundary,” said Patel in the post-match conference.
The Haryana bowler has been a late bloomer. The IPL has helped him get his due. Since last season, ever since taking a five-wicket haul against Mumbai Indians at Chennai, he has been a transformed bowler. He went on to top the wicket-taker’s tally with 32 scalps and break into the India team. He has continued his good work and has claimed 19 wickets in 14 games this season. As he told his captain and coach at RCB, he wants to challenge himself in the toughest of situations.
“Whether I would be able to deliver or not, I don’t really know, I can’t say. But I want to be in those situations, there is no doubt about that and I have been wanting to do that for the past 2-3 years, I have been doing that for Haryana, and I wanted to do it at the bigger stage and I will continue to put myself in those situations, sometimes it is going to come off, sometimes it is not going to come off. There will be games where I will end up losing for the team and I am okay with that as long as I don’t shy away from challenges.”
On Friday, Harshal Patel and Prasidh Krishna will again have their task cut out when their teams clash in the Qualifier 2 at Motera Stadium. It will once again be about holding the nerves and keeping a calm head when the pressure is on. Easier said than done, right?