Not often has Kuldeep Yadav been given defensive fields in the 2023 World Cup so far. Usually, the wrist spinner is given an attacking field with fielders inside the ring on off-side, asking the batters to take a risk. But on Sunday, Kuldeep operated with long-on, long-off, deep extra covers, and a deep mid-wicket.
New Zealand’s Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell’s 152-ball stay for the third wicket showed the rest of the teams how to untangle India’s middle over (11-40) bowling web.
On average, teams have conceded 5.73 runs per over in the second PowerPlay, 21 games into the tournament. So far, India has been the most economical team in this phase - conceding 4.83 runs per over. Coming into this game, it was 4.50.
The increase is courtesy of Ravindra and Mitchell’s 159-run partnership filled with strokeplay all around the picturesque HPCA ground in Dharamsala.
New Zealand finished the first PowerPlay (1-10) with a score of 34/2 and both openers — Devon Conway and Will Young — back in the hut. But with Ravindra and Mitchell at the crease, the Kiwis still had the two of their best bets to counter spin in middle overs.
In 11-40 overs, Ravindra and Mitchell have a combined average of 110.50 — 93.7 before Sunday — in this tournament. Against spin, the duo averaged 76.3, but after facing Kuldeep and Ravindra Jadeja, it has now increased to 130.5 in five matches.
Right from when Jadeja was deployed in the 12th over, both Ravindra and Mitchell used their feet well.
Even Kuldeep, when introduced in the 17th over, was instantly made to rethink his plans. Ravindra came down the track and smacked him over the head for a six, and Mitchell repeated it two balls later.
Kuldeep was hit for 48 runs in his first five overs.
He was forced to flatten his trajectory, so much so that on more than one occasion, the wrist spinner clocked 114 kmph in the speedometer just so that Mitchell wouldn’t hit him.
And it was purely an effect the Kiwi duo had had on Kuldeep. When Mohammed Shami finally removed Ravindra (75) in the 34th over, Tom Latham walked in.
Kuldeep was back at his usual trajectory: a slightly flighted, close to 90 kmph, pitching around 3-5 meters and finishing at stumps. Latham was trapped in front, the sixth ball he faced off Kuldeep.
The 28-year-old in his next five overs, picked two wickets while conceding 25. Even in his threatening second spell, the only batter Kuldeep didn’t toss it up was Mitchell, who continued to receive flat and wide deliveries.
New Zealand scored 184 runs in the middle overs, losing two wickets, and became the first team in this World Cup to score more than six runs an over against India.
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