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The bizarre field placing that arguably cost CSK in last-ball thriller

by Rohit Sankar 3 minute read

Chennai Super Kings made a towering 218 and then nearly survived a Kieron Pollard hurricane before a questionable set of field placings  saw them concede the game to their arch-rivals.

Wearing your opponent down to a frazzle and then taking it all down to the last ball of the innings; that’s MS Dhoni‘s bread and butter in a dewy T20 night game. Five years ago, against Bangladesh in a must-win clash in the T20 World Cup, he famously dropped a glove, showed impeccable game awareness and ran out Mustafizur Rahman with a quick sprint to the stumps.

This time, it was Kieron Pollard, on 85 off 33 balls, wielding his willow with the swagger that makes him one of the greatest T20 players on the planet. This right there was a moment when two legends crossed paths. It had to swing one way or the other and with two needed off one ball, Dhoni’s gloves dropped again. Pollard took strike with his eyes fixated on Ngidi as he ran in one last time.

But, hold on.

The field setting

Was he bowling a wide yorker at Pollard? There were no fielders on the leg side inside the circle. Were they banking on Pollard going for another leg-side heave when only two runs were needed? Were they hoping Ngidi bowled a yorker like Lasith Malinga did two years ago in the final against Chennai with a similar field and similar equation?

Pollard is no Shardul Thakur. He is no blind slogger either. As Ngidi revved up, Pollard moved across, his eyes darting quickly to the wide gap on the leg-side, and sure enough he dug out the yorker outside off stump with an angled bat to the leg side and took off. The long-on isn’t even in the frame as Pollard completes the first run and rushes back.

There was no huddle, no chatter, no animated gestures and definitely no frantic field changes made before that final ball. Did Dhoni make an erroneous call, leaving that big a gap on the leg-side? His head coach, Stephen Fleming did not think so.

“Not really (on whether he was surprised to see the field). Pollard is such a good timer of the ball that you never know what he’s going to do,” said Fleming during the post-match press conference. “Got so much to win, to be honest, we were looking for something like the stumps being hit or like the result, we had when we got beaten in the (2019) final. So, we’ll go have a look over that. I think there are a lot of other instances that we’ll have a look at rather than just the last ball.”

Would a leg-side fielder inside the ring have prompted Pollard to look for a big shot? Arguably. With two need off one ball and a spread out field, CSK seemed to be hoping for a big hit straight to the fielder or preparing themselves for a Super Over. It’s not the only decision that lost them the game, but viewing it in hindsight, it’s one that they will likely rue.

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