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Back in Purple and Gold, Umesh Yadav has a night to remember

Umesh Yadav had a bone to pick when asked to sum up his feelings at being awarded the Man of the Match after nearly two seasons.

“Getting this (award) after two years and I’m very happy with the performance,” an elated Yadav told the broadcasters after the game. “I haven’t played white-ball cricket for a while, so thanks to the head coach and captain for keeping faith in me.” 

His figures of 2-20 from his quota of four overs orchestrated KKR’s first win at the Wankhede Stadium in nearly a decade and helped kickstart the IPL 2022 with a win on the board.

Yadav, who went unsold at the past two auctions after being picked for his base price this year, had an opportunity to redeem himself on Friday night. Back bowling in the Purple and Gold, having represented the Knight Riders for three years up until 2017, he made clever use of the movement on offer mixing the swing with scrambled-seam nip-backers to keep the Chennai Super Kings’ top-order guessing.

Speaking on the eve of the match, head coach Brendon McCullum backed Yadav to lead the bowling attack in the absence of Pat Cummins and Tim Southee. 

"Umesh Yadav was a really good pick-up for us in the auction because of his ability to swing the ball upfront and he is also a wicket-taker too. His statistics in powerplay are really, really good and that's where we'll look to try and use him."

Only Zaheer Khan, Sandeep Sharma (52 wickets each) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (51) have more wickets than Yadav (47) in the powerplay.

When Ruturaj Gaikwad slashed at a wide delivery to edge it to Nitish Rana at first slip, it was the seventh time Yadav had taken a wicket in the first over of the innings of an IPL match and only the third bowler for KKR to take a wicket in the first over against the Chennai Super Kings. Since the 2014 edition of the tournament, only Trent Boult (6 wickets in 25 games) has more wickets in the first over of the match.

In his third over, also in the powerplay, he priced out Devon Conway for 3 after he miscued a flick to Shreyas Iyer at mid-on. 

“Umesh has been bowling really well. He has proved himself for so many years now, he has the pace,” Ajinkya Rahane, who himself has found limited white-ball opportunities in the past two years and scored 44 on Friday, said after the game.

“Today, I think he bowled really well. He also got an opportunity after a long time, especially in this format in the IPL. The way he bowled today, those wickets upfront were really crucial for us. I’m really happy for Umesh.”