Mankading. Missed no-balls. After events of the first week of IPL 2019, the cameras are going to be trained on the bowling crease line during Saturday’s clash between Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians:
Both teams have benefitted from controversial calls revolving around the few millimeters.
Punjab captain Ravichandran Ashwin’s run-out of Jos Buttler after the Rajasthan Royals batsman had wandered out of his crease at the non-striker’s end sparked worldwide debate, while Mumbai bowler Lasith Malinga overstepped on the final ball of Thursday’s nail-biting win over Royal Challengers Bangalore, only for the umpires to miss it entirely and fail to call a no-ball, provoking a furious reaction from Bangalore captain Virat Kohli.
Kohli: We are playing at #IPL level, not club cricket. That's a ridiculous call. It's the last ball and the umpires should have their eyes open, was a no-ball by an inch. If it's a game of margins I don't know what's happening. They should've been more sharp and careful #RCBvMI— Cricbuzz (@cricbuzz) March 28, 2019
Mumbai and Punjab now go into this game in Mohali with one win apiece, though in varying form: the Indians enter on the back of having won that thriller against RCB, a morale-boosting result given their difficulty in winning close games last season. Kings XI lost on Wednesday after another Andre Russell special for Kolkata Knight Riders.
Ashwin, especially, will remain under scrutiny, as he followed that Mankad-ing incident with an inexcusable captaincy gaffe against KKR. Russell was four off five when Mohammad Shami delivered a perfect yorker that shattered his stumps, only for the umpires to call a no ball because there weren’t enough fielders inside the circle. The batsman finished with a match-winning 48 off 17.
That masked what was a rare all-round performance from the Punjab batting line-up, as two players not named KL Rahul or Chris Gayle scored half-centuries, with David Miller and Mayank Agarwal finding promising early-season form. But their death bowling needs to improve.
In their win against Royals, Punjab had choked the batting before the death overs began, a sound strategy, but they can’t afford more displays like the one against Kolkata, when Shami and Andrew Tye conceded 55 off the last three overs. They need to work on their bowling combination, having left out off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rehman and pacer Ankit Rajpoot in that game, which looked liked a bad call when it was made and worse as the KKR innings went on.
Mumbai showed enough in Thursday’s win to indicate that when things click, this is one of the best sides in the IPL. Key players like Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav have started the season in decent form, Quinton de Kock is not far off, and Yuvraj Singh has surprised everyone with some vintage batting displays.
But Jasprit Bumrah needs some support at the death, and the think-tank needs to ensure Mayank Markande is playing every game – he came into the side on Thursday after missing the opening match against Delhi and picked up 1-23 in his three overs. They don’t have any other classical spinner in the squad, so the youngster’s inclusion adds a mystery element.
Kings XI Punjab: Chris Gayle, KL Rahul (wk), Mayank Agarwal, Sarfaraz Khan, David Miller, Mandeep Singh, Ravi Ashwin, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Andrew Tye, Mohammad Shami, Ankit Rajpoot
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Yuvraj Singh, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Mayank Markande, Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga
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