Death overs in the Indian T20 League is perhaps one of the greatest spectacles for cricket fans, as bowlers showcase their prowess to ace the high-pressure situations.
Only a few bowlers can master the art of death bowling, be it pacers or spinners, as the right skillset - knuckleballs, slower ball-bouncers and yorkers - can deny batters from running amok.
Containing the run rate within the death overs is a tedious task for bowlers and these five bowlers have championed the cause in the Indian T20 League.
At the very mention of death overs bowling in the Indian T20 League, the first name that comes at the tip of the tongue is Sri Lankan legend Lasith Malinga.
The now-retired pacer was at the forefront of Mumbai’s bowling attack in the tournament, with 170 wickets in his 12-year stay with the five-time champions and scalped a whopping 90 wickets at death.
Amongst his greatest spells over his time in the cash-rich competition was the 2019 game against Bangalore, where he took four wickets for 15 runs in his final two overs.
Malinga returned to bowl in the 18th over and dismissed Moeen Ali off the first delivery. Upon conceding seven runs in the next two deliveries, the Mumbai paceman dismissed Marcus Stoinis for a duck to bring Mumbai closer to a win.
Malinga’s moment of glory came in the final over, as AB de Villiers was run out and the duo of Akshdeep Nath and Pawan Negi dispatched back on successive deliveries to put Mumbai on course for a five-wicket win.
Dwayne Bravo is known as a global T20 star and is often put in the same breath as Lasith Malinga as the ‘death over specialists.’
Bravo has featured for three franchise teams - Mumbai, Chennai and defunct Gujarat - and is one of the two bowlers to have won the Purple Cap twice. The Trinidadian is known for his variety mix of slow balls and precise yorkers, which helps him stack maximum dot balls in high-scoring games.
From his career tally of 153 wickets in 140 matches, the 37-year-old has taken 82 wickets in death overs and requires eight scalps to match the tally of Lasith Malinga.
Wicket-less after the first two games in the 2020 edition, Bravo bounced back with figures of 3/37 and became the fifth bowler to bag 150 wickets in the competition.
Having registered a wicket for 32 runs from his first three overs, the West Indian all-rounder began his final over on a defensive note but after MS Dhoni instructed him to “hit hard lengths,” Bravo took three wickets for three runs in his last four deliveries and capped a win on his 37th birthday.
Often not a top-choice bowler in death overs, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has stood his ground to be the third-highest wicket-taker with 66 scalps in the death overs of the Indian T20 League.
The 31-year-old is best known for his swing bowling, which constantly has kept opening batters on tight ropes in the Indian T20 League. Still, as far as his record in death overs is concerned, the Hyderabad pacer has been uncharacteristically inconsistent with his economy.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the leading bowler for Hyderabad in the tournament with 136 wickets, and the top Indian pacer (overall) in the all-time wicket-takers list.
The Hyderabad star’s decisive death over spell came in the 2014 edition, where he took three wickets at the cost of just two runs in the 18th over against Rajasthan.
Bhuvneshwar began with successive dismissals of James Faulkner and Rajat Bhatia before wrapping up the over with Kane Richardson’s wicket and finishing his spell with match-winning figures of 4/14.
Once criticised for his unorthodox bowling action, Jasprit Bumrah is now a force to reckon with in the Indian T20 League and international T20 cricket.
The Mumbai pacer, who learned and bowled alongside Lasith Malinga in the franchise, has registered 53 wickets in death overs and is known to peak in this period.
While he may not bowl toe-crushing yorkers like Malinga, Bumrah’s strengths lie in clever yorkers, slow bouncers and bumpers that keep the opposition batters often guessing at the crease.
In a ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ act, Bumrah’s wicket of KL Rahul in the penultimate over in Mumbai’s 2018 meeting with Punjab secured a three-run win and kept their faint playoff hopes alive.
The 27-year-old, who came into the 19th over with two wickets for nine runs, gave away three runs of his first three balls before taking the vital wicket of KL Rahul. Going forward, he gave away three runs again but kept the asking rate at 17 from the last over. Fortunately, Mitchell McClenaghan stood his ground and helped Mumbai take the vital three points at the Wankhede Stadium.
Sunil Narine is the only spinner in the Indian T20 League history to scalp 50 wickets in death overs, and as mysterious as his bowling, one can’t simply take an easy guess on the threat he can pose in a game.
Having featured predominantly for Kolkata in the competition, Narine has a career economy of 6.77 in 120 matches while taking 127 wickets in due process. The Trinidadian’s unpredictability and prowess to change his delivery’s pace upon reading the batsmen makes him a deadly bowler in the death overs.
Sunil Narine is quite known for being a miser bowler in the Indian T20 League, and he is the seventh-best bowler to have bowled maximum dot balls in history - 1,118.
In the 2014 edition, Narine bowled his best death over spell against Punjab, albeit in a losing cause. The mystery spinner conceded 23 runs from his three overs but his final over sparked a difference in his match performance. He dismissed Axar Patel and Mitchell Johnson in successive deliveries before taking Lakshmipathy Balaji’s wicket on the fourth ball. In that over, Narine conceded just one run.
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