When a batsman is not hitting the ball off the middle of the bat, it is one of the most frustrating experiences for him. He would actually prefer to get out rather than struggle to meet the ball in the right areas. In this context, the innings played by Adam Gilchrist against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore was all the more striking. It was no secret that the Punjab skipper went into the game woefully out of form. The circumstances were also highly challenging, with the side chasing a huge total. Having lost Shaun Marsh early, the visitors were facing an uphill task, but Gilchrist stood up to be counted.
The most impressive aspect of Gilchrist’s match-winning knock on Tuesday was that he battled through the hard times, and stayed on to take the team to a memorable victory. Most of his boundaries in the first half of his knock came via mistimed strokes and edges. Yet, Gilchrist battled through the tough times and came out triumphant. As it often happens with batsmen, Gilchrist too rediscovered some of his old touch as his innings progressed further. Of course, at 40 plus he is well past his prime, and hence never quite looked in control even during latter part of the innings. But, for a brief while, he did turn back the clock.
Even as Gilchrist played a highly mature knock, it was Azhar Mahmood, who set the tone for the chase. When Mahmood walked in, promoted to number three, Marsh was back in the hut and Gilchrist was making batting look like the toughest job in the world. This is where Mahmood made the difference. He was the one who broke the shackles for Punjab, taking on the unsuspecting Bangalore bowlers. Mahmood’s flourishing strokes literally opened the floodgates. And even though he was dismissed with a few more runs to get, Mahmood had doneenough to put Punjab in a match-winning position.
While Gilchrist and Mahmood’s smashing knocks must be appreciated, it has to be said that Bangalore were exceedingly poor with the ball once again. Except for the first few overs of the Punjab innings, Bangalore never looked in any sort of control. Muralitharan and R. Vinay Kumar were taken for plenty and couldn’t do anything to stop the flow of runs. Jaydev Unadkat was responsible for bowling too many loose deliveries, which took all the pressure away from Gilchrist and Mahmood. Moises Henriques was equally poor while Zaheer Khan also did not make much of an impact on his comeback.
Earlier, Punjab had begun very well with the ball as well. Parvinder Awana and Mahmood kept things extremely tight, with the latter even sending back Cheteshwar Pujara early. The best part of Punjab’s bowling performance in the first half of Bangalore’s innings was that they rarely bowled loose deliveries. The fact that Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli managed to break loose thereafter had more to do with their exceptional talent. But, once the duo got their act together, Punjab’s limitations got exposed. They had enough fuel in the tank while batting though.
Turning point of the game: Punjab’s decision to promote Mahmood to number three. He slammed 61 off 41 balls.
--By A Cricket Analyst