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Tripathi misses out on hundred, but scripts Pune victory

Wisden India logo Wisden India 03-05-2017
© Associated Press

You don’t need a bachelor’s degree in mathematics to appreciate the elegant insouciance of Rahul Tripathi’s strokeplay, or to calculate the number of missed opportunities for a young man who had gone past 30 six times in his last eight innings in the Indian Premier League 2017, without ever going higher than 59.

Tripathi himself probably didn’t need that degree he has to know he would have to go big when set to make the step up to the next level. He might have put his maths skills to use fleetingly to plan Rising Pune Supergiant’s chase of 156 on Wednesday (May 3), but wouldn’t need them for the majority of the innings, having all but settled the issue four overs into the chase, and then continuing to drive the advantage home.

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Tripathi ended with a magnificent 93 off 52 in front of an appreciative, if partisan, Eden Gardens crowd, as Pune overhauled Kolkata Knight Riders’ 155 for 8 by four wickets. It was his highest T20 score, and took Pune level on points with Kolkata, with both teams having 14 from 11 games and only net run-rate putting Kolkata second. That the match went into the final over was thanks to Kolkata fighting back manfully, with Chris Woakes (3 for 18) leading the way and even stopping Tripathi short of his century, but Pune always had the chase under control.

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They began uncertainly, and after two overs they were 11 for the loss of Ajinkya Rahane, done in by a pacy Umesh Yadav. The next four overs brought 63 runs, Tripathi scoring 47 of them and carting the trio of Umesh, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Woakes as if they were net bowlers instead of properly established international pacers bowling to a man who hadn’t even nailed down a spot in his state team before this tournament. At the end of the Power Play, Pune had 74 for 2, and all that was needed from there was sensible batting with less than a run-a-ball required.

Tripathi’s hitting was clean and classical; he didn’t even slow down against the spinners, as a hat-trick of sixes against Kuldeep Yadav showed. The loss of his more established partners – he saw Rahane, Steven Smith, Manoj Tiwary, Ben Stokes and MS Dhoni depart – didn’t faze him, and thanks to his effortless ability to hit the gaps, Pune were always ahead of the required rate. On another day, the lack of support for Tripathi would have hurt Pune, with Stokes’s 14 the next highest score. But with the young man controlling the innings from start to almost finish, they got away. His wicket made it 150 for 6 in the 19th over, but the only point of note then was that he wouldn’t get to three figures.

Kolkata had a stop-start innings, and the power-hitting form of Robin Uthappa, out with a hamstring niggle, was clearly missed. Gautam Gambhir had watched from the other end as Jaydev Unadkat set the tone with a wicket-maiden to Sunil Narine in the first over, jagging the ball a touch and mixing his pace. Gambhir took a few overs to get his bearings but began opening out soon enough with a couple of fours off Stokes and a four and six off Washington Sundar. Just when he looked good for a big one though, he slog-swept the offspinner straight to Ajinkya Rahane at the midwicket fence.

For the entire first half of the innings, Kolkata simply couldn’t get a move on, as a score of 59 for 4 indicated.

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Colin de Grandhomme then chose the right moment to show that his reputation for big-hitting was well-earned, injecting spark into Kolkata’s innings. Till he started biffing the ball around, having walked in during the 10th over, only Manish Pandey had shown any degree of mastery and control. With de Grandhomme, there were no half-measures as Imran Tahir was hit for consecutive sixes, and Pandey too was timing the ball well. A slower ball from Daniel Christian consumed Pandey at the most inopportune moment for Kolkata, and though Grandhomme was still striking it, he too fell a couple of overs later. Unadkat, who bowled a magnificent first three overs, got the change of pace to do the trick again, a leading edge falling safely in point’s hands.

At 119 for 6 in the 17th over, Kolkata were looking at a sub-par total, and Coulter-Nile copping a nasty blow on his helmet off Christian also proved significant, with the bowler not looking his usual self when he took the field and not bowling his full quota of overs either. However, their batting depth came to their aid. Suryakumar Yadav ensured he would cement his place in the XI ahead of Jackson with a superb cameo, spoiling Unadkat’s figures. The left-arm pacer had 3-1-7-2, but ended up conceding 21 runs in his final over with Suryakumar smacking a brace of fours and sixes. That final flourish pushed Kolkata past 150 and into competitive-total territory.

But in the face of Tripathi’s inspired innings, it was never going to be enough.

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