It was one fielding error that would skew Saturday’s IPL match between Lucknow Super Giants and Delhi Capitals in the former’s favour, as KL Rahul’s side swarmed to a 50-run win.
Lucknow ended the Powerplay at 30-1 after a laborious start, after Rahul had just been caught at deep backward square leg, misjudging a slower one from Chetan Sakariya. The left-armer looked to do the same to Kyle Mayers, confusing him with a slower short ball, which Mayers lobbed straight to Khaleel Ahmed at backward point, but the fast bowler fumbled a sitter of a catch to give Mayers a new life.
The Barbadian did not look back from there. After labouring to 17 off 17, Mayers raced to a 38-ball 73 – the fourth-highest score by a debutant in IPL history. The most striking aspect of Mayers’ strokeplay was his all-out attack against the spinners, slapping Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav for five of his seven sixes. His varied arsenal was on full display, manipulating the crease and getting runs all round the ground with cuts, drives, and slog sweeps.
Mayers was trapped by a ripping turner, from fifth stump to off- stump, by Axar, in what was the kind of special delivery needed to beat him on the day. His storming innings set the stage for fellow West Indian Nicholas Pooran to finish the job with a quick-fire 36 from 21 balls with the help of an Ayush Badoni cameo (complete with a 97-metre six) at the death, as the home team amassed 193/6 in their allotted overs.
Making their debut in the IPL just last year, Lucknow’s batting-heavy team-building strategy is representative of the brand of cricket the IPL has endorsed for long. Flatter pitches and less aggressive wicket-taking fields have made franchise T20 cricket a batsmen’s domain.
Whichever combination of players they decide to employ, it is very likely that Lucknow’s top order will contain three international players. Marcus Stoinis and Pooran joined Mayers – who has given the team a selection headache given he is Quinton de Kock’s temporary replacement – at the top on Saturday. That leaves space for only one international specialist bowler, who, in this case, would hammer the ultimate nail in Delhi’s coffin.
Mark Wood took this season’s first five-for, ending his spell with 5-14. The Englishman cleaned up the off-stump of both Prithvi Shaw and Mitchell Marsh off successive deliveries in his first over, with the kind of genuine pace and seam movement that can be supremely effective on any surface in any format. A ferocious bouncer would claim the wicket of Sarfaraz Khan shortly afterwards, as his upper-cut attempt saw him on the floor, and the ball going into the hands of the fielder at deep fine leg.
David Warner went on to hit a 48-ball 56. The skipper may have done well to stay out for long, but was hardly in control of his innings – full of leading edges and mistimed shots – much like Delhi’s entire run chase.