Another week of action in the IPL has flown by, with England’s contingent once again in the thick of things. Here’s a rundown on how they have fared to date. Click here for last week’s update.
Archer in silken form, but little to show for it
Rajasthan’s hot form from the first week of the tournament has somewhat frittered away, but there’s not much more that Jofra Archer could have done to keep them competitive in consecutive defeats to KKR and RCB. With the ball he has been a dementor, sizzlingly quick and with such command of his variations, and with the bat he just keeps landing his punches – maybe not with quite the alacrity of week one, but he’s still got eight sixes to show for 25 deliveries in the tournament, a higher ratio than any other player. Talking of ratios, Archer has so far served up 51 dot-balls in the competition, the most by any bowler – 29 of which came from this week’s 48 deliveries. At one stage against KKR, he had figures of 2 for 4 in three overs. Who knows what might have happened had his last ball of the night, an uppercut from Eoin Morgan, not been palmed over the ropes by Tom Curran for six.
Sam Curran, the finisher with unfinished business
What are we supposed to make of a world in which CSK’s best chance of pulling off a stiff run-chase is to get the GOAT of finishing off-strike, and hand the cudgels to England’s pint-sized pugilist, Sam Curran? For the umpteenth time since India’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, MS Dhoni’s wonky pace-maker has cost his side dear, but when Curran strode to the crease in Dubai on Friday night with 51 still needed from 14, and deposited his first ball high over midwicket for six, the prospect of another miracle was revived. Curran had, after all, been rattling along at a strike-rate of close to 300 in the first week of the tournament, but alas for CSK, he only faced two of the last 11 balls of the innings – including a last-ball lump down the ground for another six. With the ball, Curran had a bit of a mixed bag this week. One disastrous over against Sunrisers ruined an otherwise good impression with the new ball, but he did the needful in their ten-wicket stroll against KXIP.
Morgan’s wise old head keeps KKR competitive
That post-World Cup glow continues to radiate from the bat of Eoin Morgan, who is playing with a freedom that he probably hasn’t known since the earliest days of his cross-over from the Ireland to England camps more than a decade ago. He played two vastly contrasting innings this week, each of them an unflappable display from a player who’s come through the pressure cooker and now is ready to savour any situation – whether it’s Archer hunting for his head in Dubai, or an asking rate of 16 with wickets running out in Sharjah. In the former, he kept his cool (and rode his luck) to make a vital 34 not out from 23 balls; in the latter, he watched three wickets fall before he’d faced his first ball, and promptly lumped Anrich Nortje for the first of five sixes in an 18-ball 44. It wouldn’t be enough, but it took his side closer than they could realistically have hoped.
Buttler finds his range in low-key week
Nothing much to write home about from Jos Buttler just yet. However, this week’s scores of 21 from 16 against KKR and 22 from 12 against RCB suggest that most aspects of his game are in good working order, and his usual full-throttle service should only be a matter of time. Certainly, his solitary six in the latter match – an effortless front-foot pick-up off an Isuru Udana slower ball – was a remarkable feat of timing and wristwork. But as his England team-mates discovered against Australia this summer, Buttler’s serenity can at times give a misleading impression of the pitch conditions, and without him on hand to power through the middle overs, Rajasthan are leaving themselves with too much catching-up to do at the death.
Hard yakka for Tom Curran as Rajasthan stumble
If Tom Curran was relieved to escape the six-hitting slaughterhouse of Sharjah – the scene of some uncomfortable moments in his opening two games of the tournament, then his bowling figures didn’t get much of a massage on the friendlier surfaces at Dubai and Abu Dhabi – 1 for 77 in 7.1 overs all told, including a bit of a schooling from a revitalised Virat Kohli against RCB. In mitigation, Curran has regularly been handed the toughest overs at the back-end of the innings – ones in which his team-mate Buttler said that conceding 15 was a win if it meant you weren’t clattered for 20-plus. His appetite for the scrap has been undiminished in the circumstances, as exemplified by his hard-earned half-century in a losing cause against KKR. In a tight table, who knows how crucial that salvaging of RR’s net run-rate may be.
Bairstow proving it’s tough at the top
It’s all gone a bit Test-match for Jonny Bairstow this week – for better and for worse. An uncomfortable grind against Delhi Capitals was amply justified in hindsight, as he resisted some tight bowling on a two-paced deck to make 53 from 48 and give Rashid Khan more than enough runs to defend. But three days later against CSK, he fell victim to an outstanding opening gambit from Deepak Chahar – length ball, outswinger, savage inswinger, the latter uprooting Bairstow’s off stump for a duck as his initial plans for a cover drive were contorted into a wretched hack across the line. His week was completed with 25 from 15 against Mumbai, an innings which was arguably undone by David Warner’s lack of fluency at the other end. Their bromance is still smouldering but it’s not quite igniting the passions as it did last year.
Chris Jordan’s birthday bumps
It was Chris Jordan’s 32nd birthday on Sunday, but it wasn’t a very happy return to the Kings XI side. After conceding 30 runs in the final over of his previous appearance against Delhi, Jordan was pumped for a further 19 in his comeback over against CSK, with Faf du Plessis cashing in on his variations with four fours in five balls at the end of the Powerplay. It got no better as he returned for the 11th over, Shane Watson this time dispatching him for consecutive fours to bring up his first fifty of the tournament. By which stage the game was long gone. You can’t pin a ten-wicket defeat on the travails of one man, but Jordan’s lack of confidence epitomises a team with one win in five to date.
Stokes primed for action; Banton, Moeen wait for the call
Ben Stokes has landed in the UAE after his compassionate leave in New Zealand, and could be ready when Rajasthan return to Sharjah for their rematch against KXIP, assuming he comes through his six-day quarantine period. Meanwhile, Moeen Ali (RCB) and Tom Banton (KKR) are still itching for their first outings of the competition – Banton could conceivably get a trial run at the top of KKR’s order this week, following a run of misfires from Sunil Narine.