LSG vs. RCB, IPL 2022, Eliminator

Existence can feel like a dark, terrifying descent down a dark, winding tunnel with only a wobbly steering wheel for company, but there are days when everything is bathed in golden light and it almost feels like you’re in control. your own destiny. Wednesday was such a day for Rajat Patidar.

He could have felt it from the third ball of his innings at Eden Gardens. Dushmantha Chameera threw him a fast, good-length ball that ended in a tight, off-kilter line, the kind of ball that keeps hitters honest on even the flattest pitches.

Patidar stood where he was and kicked the ball, meeting it before his eyes with a vertical bat, making contact just as he shifted his weight from the front foot to the rear. The ball accelerated downward, into one of the pitches adjacent to the match boards, and bounced off the right hand of the backpoint defender as he lunged sideways and upwards at full extension. His cover point colleague then gave chase, and the ball kept him interested long enough to attempt a sprawling dive, stomach first before it slipped out of his fingertips and jumped over. boundary cushions.

It was a pure timing shot, with no need for equipment such as footwork or tracking.

Beating can be a messy thing full of interconnected moving parts that only need to go out of sync slightly for the whole mechanism to fall apart. On a day like the one Patidar had, however, it can seem like all you have to do is stand there, watch the ball, and let your instincts take over.

His feet moved when they had to, of course, with agility and precision, allowing him to do absurd things like step away from the leg stump and carve low, full coverage, with one hand. Or to jump the other way and deflect a yorker on a short, thin leg, against the angle around the wicket. Or, more subtly, to lighten his front foot and pivot on his back foot to hook a short ball – a short ball designed to save him space – on a long leg for six.

Patidar’s feet moved when they had to, but never more than strictly necessary, and the overwhelming feeling the sleeves gave off was of stillness. The immobility of the privileged few who have that extra fraction of a second – or the illusion of it – to play their shots.

KL Rahul is one of those blessed few and in the sixth inning for the Lucknow Super Giants he hit a pair of shot sixes on Mohammed Siraj which suggested he had minutes rather than split seconds to react to the ball . As Patidar had done time and time again during the rounds of Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rahul simply stood still and kicked the ball away from his presence.

When he plays shots like these, Rahul seems capable of anything. It’s like he knows in advance what the bowler is going to bowl. Presentiment had to be involved, surely, when he knocked Shahbaz Ahmed over his right shoulder in the 11th, his hands so quick you barely saw them move.

Rahul makes these shots look so easy that you start to wonder why the intervals between them are so often passed so vigilantly, full of simple walks to deep fielders. And on a day like Wednesday, when the Super Giants were chasing 208, you wonder even more.

There were no such lulls during the Patidar innings. He hit a four or six every 2.8 balls, and if he hit a boundary early in an over, it was just a prelude to piling more pressure on the bowler with unmitigated intent. .

With those fresh innings in mind, it was natural to draw comparisons when Rahul was batting. Patidar, for example, raised his hundred from his 49th ball, and Rahul hit a six from his 49th ball to go from 58 to 64.

But here’s the thing. Patidar was playing a one-inning blinder on a day when everything was going his way. He timed the ball like a dream, and on the rare occasions he didn’t, luck smiled on him.

Patidar was on 59 of 34 when a Krunal Pandya head kick swelled and fell just short of a Mohsin Khan dive to third-man short. He attempted to sweep the next ball and the ball slammed into his inside edge and missed the leg stump by an inch. Then, when he was on 72 of 40, he missed a Ravi Bishnoi pull and Deepak Hooda missed a deep midwicket keeper.

And the Patidar team was the first to strike. Rahul’s team was chasing. Rahul was not chasing 112 on 54 balls; The super giants were chasing 208.

There’s often criticism of Rahul’s conservative middleman approach – largely justified – when his team beats first and ends up with totals that aren’t as over par as ever. they could be otherwise. But this round was not the same.

And it wasn’t entirely a matter of intent or lack thereof. There was a seven-period period immediately after the power play in which Rahul only hit one boundary, but that was at least in part due to some really good defensive bowling, especially from Harshal Patel , who got more buy from the field with his cutters than any other fast pitcher on the day.

“Yeah, I think now, looking back, yeah, that was about two big hits in the middle and that could have gotten us over the line,” Rahul said in his postgame press conference. . “It’s not that we didn’t try to hit those fours or sixes. We were trying, but in the middle they played really well. I think Harshal’s two overs in the middle was what gave us a bit pushed back, because he went I think two overs for seven or eight runs [eight runs], he didn’t give much and he changed his pace really well. He bowled on the pitch, and that’s where we got pushed back a bit.”

After that quiet period, Rahul, Hooda and Marcus Stoinis hit seven sixes in the space of four overs to bring the equation down to 41 on 18 balls. If the Super Giants had been offered that equation — that one too with Rahul and Stoinis at the crease — early in their innings, they probably would have taken it.

When the 18th started, the overwhelmingly pro-Royal Challengers crowd was the quietest of the entire evening.

On this overcast evening in Kolkata, two hitters performed very different wire numbers. Patidar risked his wicket with every audacious shot he attempted, and the shots didn’t look so risky when they came out because he was hitting in a bubble of pure timing. And luck saved him every time he threatened to slip off the tightrope.

The risk taken by Rahul was to minimize the risk of losing his wicket and to support himself and his colleagues to face a high demand rate during the closings of the match. He risked losing and having his approach widely criticized, when he could have gone harder, scored faster, been out for 28 out of 16 balls, say, and deserved praise even if his team had lost by a greater margin.

The argument that a 28-16 ball is a better run than a 79-58 ball in a 208 chase is, of course, valid, and the argument will no longer need to be made if T20 moves at point where most teams have quality hitters at bat from Nos. 1 through 8. But Rahul — a T20 player capable of every shot, but also one with hard-wired longer format instincts — was batting on the evening of May 25, 2022 , for a team that had mid-range issues all season, and he was trying to win them a game the best way possible.

He went down to 41 from 18 balls, then 33 from 12, then, after a series of wides from Josh Hazlewood, 28 from 9. Then Rahul crossed his stumps, expecting the bowler to attempt a wide yorker, and got what he was looking for, misdirected so it was a draw. He looked for the turn on a short, thin leg, a shot he plays as well as anyone in the game.

There are days when everything turns out the way you want it to, and there are days when it doesn’t, but you fight and hope for things to work out. Rahul centered the ball, timing it reasonably well but not perfectly, getting decent power on the shot but not the elevation he wanted to clear a short, thin leg safely.

On another day, the ball may have traveled a few yards either side of where it ended up and slipped past the defender’s fingertips. That day, Shahbaz Ahmed jumped diagonally to his left, reached up and landed with the ball tucked in his hands. That day, two batters walked two different types of tightrope, and there was only room for one of them on the other side.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is Deputy Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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