Sunil Narine cuts a composed figure on the field. He may not talk much but he makes the ball talk. He may not celebrate his wickets extravagantly but his deliveries snake around the batters and make them dance to his tunes.
Be it when the opponents are 138 all out or 215 for 5, his approach has remained the same. On Sunday, it was no different. On a day when every other KKR bowler, barring Andre Russell’s 1-16 in two overs, was hit around for more than 10-an-over, Narine’s figures read 4-0-21-2.
Prithvi Shaw and David Warner prioritised boundary-hitting on a hard wicket with square boundaries and were able to offset the new-ball threat posed by Umesh Yadav, Rasikh Salam and Pat Cummins. They managed to hit as many as eight boundaries and a six in the first four overs itself and pocketed 76% of the runs in boundaries. The figure went up to nearly 82% at the end of the powerplay, when the Capitals finished with 68 for no loss.
The flow of runs meant skipper Shreyas Iyer had to introduce spin as early as the fifth over. Varun Chakaravarthy’s over went for eight and Narine, in the following over, conceded 10, the first time both had bowled together in the power-play this season.
"It was definitely based on the start they got and Prithvi [Shaw] is someone who doesn't go really big against the spinners as I've played with him before," Iyer spoke of the move after the match. "So, since he got a really good start, I wanted to restrict the momentum that he had created at the start and I felt that Varun and Sunil both are experienced bowlers, so they could stick to it at that point of time and give us a really good hold."
The good hold did come from Narine, who made deception his mantra and pressure his ally. He bowled on a back of a length, at times quicker and flatter, to make it difficult for Pant and Warner to line him up. His last two overs only went for four runs as he picked up the wickets of Lalit Yadav, a plumb LBW call after he missed a back-of-a-length delivery hitting the middle stump, and the big-hitting Rovman Powell in his last over, after he slogged a full ball on off stump only for the substitute fielder Rinku Singh to hold on to a fine catch at fine leg.
It was only after his tidy 14th and 16th over, and Umesh Yadav’s 17th, that the Capitals’ run-rate dipped below 10-an-over for the first time in the innings and it seemed the Capitals would struggle to get to 200.
Narine is so far the most economical bowler this season, with an economy of 4.85 and has conceded the second fewest boundaries- seven (five fours and two sixes) – for any bowler to have bowled minimum 15 overs this season. His ratio of balls per boundary- 17.1 – is second only to Delhi’s Mustafizur Rahman’s 18.
His figures so far have read 0/15, 1/12, 1/23, 0/26 and 2/21. In a squad that has had the likes of Umesh Yadav, Andre Russell and Pat Cummins enjoy the limelight, Narine has eschewed it, going about his grubby work operating from under the radar.