I waited a couple of days after the Kings XI Punjab vs Delhi Capitals match, the 13th of IPL 2019, to write this. The wait was necessary - to see whether the tremors of the collapse were still felt, and mainly to wait for the brain to function normally after the spaghetti mess it had become after the match.
It would be safe to say I haven't seen a worse collapse in all cricket, not just the IPL.
Consider the situation.
- Punjab batted first, and scored a middling 166/9.
- The match was in Mohali, which has always favoured batsmen more than bowlers.
- Although Delhi lost the 'still on 99, from the previous match' Prithvi Shaw first ball, Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer both scored modest 30's to keep the team in control.
- Delhi were 144/3 in 16.3 overs, now needing just 23 runs off 21 balls with 7 wickets in hand.
- Rishabh Pant and Colin Ingram were batting, both nearing 40 and looking to close the match early.
- The commentators were talking about how Delhi could lift their run rate if they managed to win by the 18th over.
- It looked like a boring finish to a fine chase by Delhi.
The previous ball had been tonked for a mighty six over mid wicket by the swashbuckling Rishabh Pant. The bowler was Mohammed Shami, who with every match seemed to be losing his mojo on locking one of the top two pacers' slots in the Indian lineup.
A few spectators started leaving, worrying more about getting out of the stadium and into their cars before the match ended, and the rush of people to the parking lot started. After all, defending 23 with more than 3 overs and 7 wickets left, was not something any team could do, even if they had four mighty West Indian bowlers from the 80's in it.
The next ball changed everything. It was a ball Shami has specialised in. He pitches it just ahead of good length, but it is not full enough for the batsman to hit with a full swing. More importantly, it hones in like a tracer bullet (sorry, Ravi Shastri) on the top of middle stump.
In an ideal world, Pant would have just defended it or played it softly for a single. But what Pant tried was another hoick for a six over mid wicket.
He missed. Shami hit. Timber rattled. 144/4.
In came Chris Morris, who has had a wonderful IPL career in both batting and bowling. He played the first ball softly to mid-off and set off for a run blindly. Ravichandran Ashwin, the KXIP captain, picked up the ball and threw down the stumps at the non-striker's end in one swift motion, catching Morris well short of the crease.
Delhi rattled. 144/5.
These two wickets gave Punjab a sniff of a win, but there were five wickets still left. Enter Sam Curran, the boy wonder, who had single-handedly been the difference between India and England in the Test series in England last year.
Curran had been bought by Punjab for a huge price just on that performance, but he hadn't performed to his caliber in the IPL up to this point.
Off the 4th ball of the next over, he enticed Ingram to loft a full ball to long off which was gleefully caught by the substitute Karun Nair. There was no reason for Ingram to hit that half-hearted shot at that stage.
Suddenly, the cat was well and truly among the pigeons. 147/6.
Delhi still had four wickets left though, and needed only 20 off 14 balls, and had a good batsman in Hanuma Vihari still out there. The MS Dhoni manual of cricket teaches you to patiently wait out an over, take singles, and take the match till the last over. But panic took out all those lessons in one quick swoop.
Most of sport is about momentum. Very little separates the teams with regards to talent. But once a team gets on a roll, it is always hard to stop. And once the momentum of a team is broken, it's hard to get it back.
The former happened to Punjab. And the latter to Delhi.
Harshal Patel walked in and mindlessly tried to hit a six off the first delivery, edging it to the keeper. 148/7.
Vihari patiently played out the first two deliveries of the next over from Shami. But the patience couldn't last beyond that. He attempted a wild slog to another Shami missile on middle stump.
He missed. Shami hit. 148/8.
Curran continued from the other end. The first ball was an in swinger on the stumps. Kagiso Rabada had just come in to bat but had lost the match mentally already. He didn't even try to see the ball and blindly tried a massive swing at it.
Timber again. 152/9.
The last man in was Sandeep Lamichhane, but he might as well be non-existent. The match was lost in the mind over the past couple of overs, and all it took to seal it was another swing, another ball on the stumps and timber yet again.
152 all out.
Curran didn't even realise it (as he mentioned later), but he had just taken a hat-trick. The euphoria for Kings XI Punjab was that high.
Delhi went from 144/3 in 16.3 overs to 152 all out in 19.2. They lost a staggering seven wickets for a paltry eight runs in just 17 balls. It is tough to see such a collapse even in local club level, forget at a professional level.
But that is the beauty of sport. No one knows what goes on in the mind of the batsman who has to stand there in the hot spot trying to face an object hurled at him at 140 km/hr, or spinning viciously.
Credit must go to Shami and Curran who were spot on in targeting the stumps and causing all that panic. It is always the basics that hold you in good stead when things look down.
And for Delhi - well, if only changing the name made you change your fortunes, then wouldn't we all be renaming ourselves every year?