Nature is healing. Piyush Chawla is rolling back the years. Suryakumar Yadav is back doing Suryakumar Yadav things. And Arshdeep Singh is back to taking wickets in a bunch – hasn’t been too long since he did that – in addition to defending totals in crunch situations, one game after another.
For Suryakumar, though, it has been a long wait. He has endured a rough few months, often not striking the ball as he used to. The guy who pulled a Jofra Archer bouncer in his first ball in international cricket for a six was instead collecting unwanted records – like bagging three consecutive golden ducks in ODIs – during this time. The guy who has been owning the T20 format ever since he made his international debut in 2021 was struggling to even get going. Since 2022, he has had the most runs (1893) and the best strike (171.77) in T20s (minimum 20 innings). But it has been a quiet few months for Suryakumar.
Against Chennai Super Kings this season, he nicked one behind while attempting to sweep. Against Delhi Capitals, he helped a short ball to fine leg and fell for a first-ball duck. On any other day, these shots would have produced results in his favour. In the first match of this season against Royal Challengers Bangalore, he played a really uncharacteristic innings, scoring a 15-ball 16. It had been a gloomy start in the IPL for him, barring a 25-ball 43 against Kolkata Knight Riders.
On Saturday, Mumbai were coming up against Kings’ big total of 214. At the halfway mark, the hosts seemed to be nowhere close to the required run rate. But only two teams have successfully chased down 200-plus targets this season, and on both occasions, the winning team needed about 120 in the last ten overs. A blinder is what Mumbai desperately needed. And it was still doable on the Wankhede surface where dew usually favours the chasing team.
Suryakumar walked into the field with Mumbai needing 131 off 63 balls. He swept Rahul Chahar behind square for a four on the third ball he faced. The fun started in the next over when three of Liam Livingstone’s deliveries were swept fine for consecutive boundaries. Until then, the Mumbai crowd, who had reserved their cheers for birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar – who was also at that point being interviewed by Ravi Shastri for the broadcaster in the dugout – broke into a “Surya, Surya” chant.
It was all Suryaesque from then on. Flick-pulling a slower short ball to the shorter boundary at fine leg. Getting on one knee to cut away a Nathan Ellis’ back-of-a-length ball over short third. Falling over while playing the paddle to bring up his fastest IPL fifty – off 23 balls. Showing off his superb wrist work by whipping Sam Curran over fine leg to bring the equation down to 40 off 18. Doing all of it with an air of nonchalance – all in all, it was a classic SKY innings.
“Form is a funny thing,” Mumbai head coach Mark Boucher said after the match. “It’s always nice for Surya to get some runs, especially the way that he does, it looks pretty spectacular. Sometimes you judge it by the numbers. He’s been hitting the ball really well in the nets. It was just a matter of time before he translated that into runs. So grateful for having him in some good form, hitting the ball so sweet and playing so devastating just like he did tonight. It bodes well for the future for us going forward.”
It was all hunky dory till then in the chase, with Cameron Green also doing his bit with a 43-ball 67. The game was almost in Mumbai’s hands.
Enter Arshdeep, the man who’s been tasked with bowling the tough overs for Punjab Kings and India in the shortest format. Around this time last year, Arsheep, who is being touted as the “next big thing” in Indian cricket, bowled a tight 19th over to MS Dhoni and helped Kings defend 188. Since the IPL 2022, he’s risen through the ranks and has done some phenomenal stuff (like this) at the highest level.
Earlier in the chase, he had dismissed Ishan Kishan for 1 for his 50th IPL wicket. In the 18th over, Tim David had just dispatched his low full toss for a six off the first ball of the over. Arshdeep nailed the yorker next ball and landed another low full toss off which David took a single to give Suryakumar the strike. The boisterous home crowd got behind Suryakumar once more. He bowled a low full toss again, but this time, Suryakumar’s flick resulted in a superb catch in the midwicket region by Atharva Taide. Mumbai’s hopes were still not dashed, with David and Tilak Varma in the middle.
A 15-run 19th over brought the equation down to 16 needed off six balls. The crowd had quietened a bit at this point, and there was a lot of chatter among Kings players. Just one run had come off the first two balls. In the third ball, Varma took a swing at a full ball and missed it, as the ball went on to break the middle stump. The next delivery was again a full ball on middle, this time to Nehal Wadhera, the Impact Player. The new middle stump met the same fate. And that’s how Arshdeep gatecrashed Suryakumar and Mumbai’s party.
It was also a game that came alive in the second half of each innings. Kings had slowed down after a decent start, with the run rate hovering around eight until the 15th over. The carnage began in the next over in which Arjun Tendulkar conceded 31 runs, with Curran and Harpreet Brar scoring four fours and two sixes in total. Kings plundered 96 runs off the last five overs; the second most runs scored in that period in the IPL history.