The Royals got their IPL up and running with a pulsating, edge-of-the-seat finish at the Wankhede closing out a three-wicket win with two balls remaining.
Winners of the inaugural tournament, but perennial underachievers since then, last season’s wooden spoonists have sunk considerable investment into big-hitting bowling all-rounder Chris Morris.
If Morris feels the weight of that investment on his shoulders, they are clearly broad enough to wear it very comfortably. Having taken the wicket of the dangerous looking Lalit Yadav as the Capitals were restricted to what seemed a sub-par 147 for eight, he smashed a matchwinning 36 runs off 18 deliveries. But those basic facts only tell a fraction of the story.
Morris single handled dragged the Royals back from the brink of certain defeat as they teetered over the precipice at 104 for seven after 16 overs. His fellow South African, David Miller, seemed to be the only Royals’ batsman capable of dealing with the Capitals’ experienced attack after their top four, boasting the power and experience of Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson, compiled a paltry 17 runs between them.
Once Miller went for a spirited 62, a third victim of the lively Avesh Khan, victory seemed too tall an order, even for the tall and well-ordered Morris. Not a bit of it though.
After two low-scoring overs in which the target seemed to fade further into the distance, he chose the 19th over to push the Royals into overdrive.
Fellow South African Kagiso Rabada captures a wicket every seven balls in death overs, so will have been confident, until Morris bludgeoned the first ball over midwicket for six and the fifth ball a little fortuitously over long leg for another.
In their first game, against the Punjab Kings, Morris had been left helpless as Samson unsuccessfully backed himself to get a six off the last ball by turning down a single to face it. Perhaps with that in mind, he ran a quick two off the first ball of Tom Curran’s final over, but swung the second, a poorly judged short slower ball over Deep Square for six, leaving just four needed from four.
The third ball went straight to extra cover, but with the next, he powered Curran’s knee-high full toss over deep square. If you pay big money, you expect both results and entertainment. The Royals certainly got both from Morris today.
He said afterwards: “I think they hit the length a lot better than we did and they got a lot of guys skying with the extra bounce. But we would have taken a chase of 140-odd. There are guys that get paid to bat and guys that get paid to slog, and I know which I am.
“That’s why I play so much golf. I think the last game that close game, we took a lot as a team. For us to get as close on the day, we took a lot out of that first game of ours. Nice to know we can win from anywhere after being down in the dumps.”
In reflecting on the missed opportunity Rishabh Pant conceded that the Capitals were short on runs. “I think the bowlers did a really good job in the start, but we let them get over us in the end. We could have bowled better. Dew got the better of us. I think we were 15-20 runs short. But there is something to gain from this match, the bowlers did well at the start. I think in the second innings there was more dew than the first innings so we had to be doing our part, because the slower ball wasn’t stopping.”
The man of the match award went, not to Morris, but to the 29-year-old left-arm medium from Porbandar, Jaydev Unadkat, reward for the clever changes of pace that accounted in rapid order for Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane during the batting power play and solid support of Morris at the death, also contributing a maximum on a day they had been in comparatively short supply. Until the Morris Moneyball got rolling that is.