By: Chinmay Vaidya
It's the end of Week 5 of IPL 2019 and we've got some crazy storylines going on. Chennai Super Kings have fallen back to earth and Kolkata Knight Riders are in a tailspin of their own. Meanwhile, RCB has risen from the depths of the table to potentially play spoiler. Let's dive into our five observations from Week 5.
1. IPL games are always won on the margins
Chennai and RCB were in a heated clash and MS Dhoni's heroics can't be overlooked in bringing the Super Kings to the edge of victory from surefire defeat. Bangalore needs to win out to have a slim shot at the playoffs and CSK needs to maintain pole position at the top of the table. The situation is 2 runs needed from the last ball. Here's what happened.
It doesn't get much closer than that on a runout. Parthiv Patel makes a hell of a throw from behind the stumps to get the wicket and RCB survives. That's the margin of victory in this league. If Patel misses the throw or Shardul Thakur makes his ground, we're looking at a super over to decide the game. Instead, it's 2 points to the Challengers.
2. Pant Power
People were calling for Rishabh Pant's head after he essentially threw away his wicket on a needlessly aggressive shot in a simple chase. The Capitals still won the match, but the criticism of Pant's aggressive nature continued into the next few days. Pant's aggression is his natural playing style. Take that away from him and you take away what makes him great. It can frustrating at times when he continues to play shots that aren't needed in the situation, but sometimes it's pure awesomeness.
This is Pant at his best. Granted, the Royals were bowling all sorts of bad deliveries but the batsman still has to put the ball away. Pant did that early and often and carried his team to the win. Keep doing you, Rishabh Pant. Your aggressive style is your best attribute.
3. A couple familiar names emerge
Shane Watson had a quiet IPL season entering Chennai's showdown against Sunrisers. He was struggling to make a big score and CSK's batting woes started with his consistent failures to click. All that changed against Hyderabad.
Watson finally broke out of his slump in a big way, crushing 96 off 53 and giving CSK a much-needed win. The Australian opener also announced his retirement from Big Bash League, which means this might be his last season in the IPL as well. He's given us so many memories along the way and this innings was a great throwback to how devastating he was in his prime.
Varun Aaron (yup, that Varun Aaron) also had a big week. After being hailed as one of India's next great pace bowlers alongside Umesh Yadav, Aaron basically disappeared. He's been a consistent fixture on IPL rosters, but he barely registers as the season goes along.
Aaron's inswinger to beat Shubman Gill is flat out filthy. It's not quite Wasim Akram's enchanted delivery from the 1992 World Cup final, but it's pretty close. It's amazing how disappearing can help you re-emerge on a global stage. Aaron has no expectations now. He can play freely and focus simply on cricket. And if his 4-20-2 line is a start, he can sneakily become one of the better Indian pace bowlers in the league.
4. Jofra Archer delivers a parting gift
Pace bowler Jofra Archer had to say goodbye to the Royals to get ready for World Cup preparations, but he left a parting gift for his squad desperately trying to get into the playoff mix as the season winds down.
Just like our first observation of the week, Archer's first shot is an edge which luckily goes for 4. If that edge skies up instead, it's a wicket for KKR and probably changes the result. Archer hits the next ball cleanly for 6 and wins the game. He was handy with the ball and he proved handy with the bat this week. It's a nice way to wrap up your IPL campaign.
5. Mumbai will defend anything
The Indians successfully defended 130 in their 2017 title match against Rising Pune Supergiant. This season, Mumbai has posted subpar totals twice; once against the Sunrisers and once against Chennai. On both occasions, the bowling unit was able to bail out the batsman.
Mumbai posted totals of 136 and 155 respectively. The Indians won both games by 40 or more runs. That's absolutely unheard when you think about the talent in the league. Mumbai has confidence in its bowling and batsmen know they can fire at the end of an innings to provide momentum and feel good about a score. This is the type of outfit that wins championships. It's an odd year and Mumbai is once again in the mix. Buckle up, it's going to be a frantic finish.