Galat ball, galat keeping
Standing up to the stumps, MS Dhoni isn't just a conjuror of quicksilver stumpings and unorthodox, football-style stops. He's also a fount of wisdom for his young spinners, his nasally drawled instructions available to the wider public thanks to the magic of the stump mic. On Wednesday, the world came to know that 'Bapu' isn't just Ravindra Jadeja's nickname, and that he shares it with that other left-arm-spinning allrounder from Gujarat, Axar Patel.
"Yeh galat ball hai, Bapu [That is a bad ball, Bapu]," Dhoni called out, when Vusi Sibanda whipped a leg-stumpish delivery to midwicket in Axar's sixth over.
Axar's next ball was far from galat. It drifted in, and turned sharply to take Sibanda's edge as he pressed forward to defend. It barely lost pace after taking the edge, and Dhoni's hands were just a touch slow behind the wicket, for once. The ball hit the edge of his glove and ran away in the direction of third man.
In the second ODI, Zimbabwe had been bowled out for 126, having been 106 for 3 at one point. Now, in the third ODI, Zimbabwe were in a similar position: 104 for 3 in the 33rd over. Surely they wouldn't collapse again?
Jasprit Bumrah ran in, and for what seemed the thousandth time in his spell, got the ball to nip back sharply from just back of a length. Timycen Maruma's bat came down at an angle, and just a touch late, as he looked to defend from the crease, and before he knew it the ball had cannoned off his inside edge and into the stumps. Bumrah's next ball straightened from the corridor: Elton Chigumbura nicked it, and he was out for his second successive golden duck. That was the end of Bumrah's over.
Now Malcolm Waller dabbed Axar to the left of cover point, and set off. It seemed a safe enough single, given KL Rahul had to run around the ball to be able to throw with his right arm. Richmond Mutumbami, however, didn't think so, and didn't move from the non-striker's end. Waller was three-fourths of the way down the pitch when he turned. He had no chance of making it back.
Axar's next ball was his most dangerous delivery. The arm ball headed towards middle stump. Graeme Cremer came forward to defend, and played for turn. The ball hit his pad, Axar barely had to appeal, and Zimbabwe had lost four wickets in four balls.
Kulkarni channels Cruyff
"If you want to play quicker you can start running faster," Johan Cruyff, the former Netherlands football international, once said, "but it's the ball that decides the speed of the game." Football for him was about vision and technique rather than lung-busting athleticism.
Dhawal Kulkarni may or may not be a fan of Cruyff's footballing philosophies, but he certainly put this one to brilliant use in the 43rd over of Zimbabwe's innings. Donald Tiripano bunted the ball a short distance into the off side, and Neville Madziva sprang out of the crease at the other end. Tiripano hesitated before responding to his partner's call. Kulkarni didn't run full-tilt to the ball - he merely jogged towards it. He didn't try to kick it at the stumps at the batsman's end - he knew Madziva would make his crease in time. Instead, he picked it up, turned around, took careful aim, and fired a rocket throw that hit the base of the stumps at the bowler's end, with Tiripano a foot short of safety. Talk about letting the ball do the work.
Madziva's towel trick
Off-stump line, perfect length, the merest hint of away movement to take the edge. The first ball of Madziva's second over could have been an absolute beauty, had it been recorded in the scorecard. But when Madziva leaped into his delivery stride, his towel had fallen out of his waistband, and the sight distracted Rahul enough for him to back away, direct the umpire's attention to the errant piece of cloth, and only offer a shot as a formality. Ian Gould signalled dead ball, and Madziva had to start his over all over again.