Jofra Archer
Jofra Archer of the Rajasthan Royals bowls against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2020 at the Dubai International Stadium on October 11, 2020. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

Pace, fiery pace is the hot topic of IPL 2020. Surprising, since this is a time when the pitches in the UAE are slowing down. Cutters and finger spin should have been thriving at this juncture. Instead, pace bowling has provided chin music to the batmen.

Jofra Archer has been bending his back whenever the Rajasthan Royals needed wickets. And the English fast bowler has had Faf du Plessis and Mahendra Singh Dhoni of the Chennai Super Kings mistiming their pull shots: the balls arrived faster than expected.

Fast bowlers in full flow have been one of the exhilarating sights in cricket. Think Dennis Lillee, Michael Holding, Richard Hadlee, Allan Donald and Dale Steyn. Ray Lindwall is said to have been a sight to behold. A worthy successor all those legends is Jofra Archer.

Nortje Buttler
Speed merchant Anrich Nortje of the Delhi Capitals knocks back the stumps of Rajasthan Royals' opener Jos Buttler in IPL 2020 at the Dubai International Stadium on October 14, 2020. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

What makes Archer’s action so good? He’s unhurried from the start of the run-up to the release of the ball. It feels as if he’s ambling to the crease. Something unique to Holding, which earned him the moniker “Whispering Death”.

Even at the wind-up and release, Archer’s so smooth that batsmen wouldn’t expect the ball to come at a lively pace. Every single aspect of his bowling action is beautifully coordinated, and he could easily be the poster boy for fast-bowling. Much like what Shane Warne was to leg-spin.

Every Rajasthan match has turned into a showpiece for Archer. And when they met Delhi Capitals last week, the game turned out to be a clash of the speedsters. Delhi won, with Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada playing decisive roles.

The match is best remembered for superb dismissals by the pacers. Prithvi Shaw was clueless when Archer’s first delivery jagged back and crashed into his stumps. Ajinkya Rahane was beaten for pace, and his pull shot landed at short midwicket.

The fastest delivery in IPL history

Nortje turned up the heat when Rajasthan batted, and Jos Buttler responded with some blazing strokes that included two outrageous scoops at balls travelling at around 155kmph. When the fastest ball is 161.3 kmph – delivered by Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar – you get an idea of Nortje’s thunderbolts. And marvel at Buttler’s skill and audacity. Nortje had the last laugh, clattering Buttler’s stump with another express delivery. That duel, that over was indeed the high-point of the match.  A match where Nortje bowled the fastest delivery in IPL history, clocking 156.22kmph.

Pat Cummins, the most expensive buy in IPL 2020 with a price tag of $2.1 million, has been cranking it up for the Kolkata Knight Riders. He won a duel with Rajasthan skipper Steve Smith with sheer pace.

The speed and accuracy of Jasprit Bumrah and James Pattinson have been an ideal foil for the swing and variations of Trent Boult for the Mumbai Indians. The Royal Challengers Bangalore missed the express deliveries of Dale Steyn, who is yet to rediscover his form, but Chris Morris’ induction had given the edge to their pace attack.

Sheldon Cottrell’s lack of consistency meant that Mohammed Shami has to bear the brunt of pace workload for the King’s XI Punjab. Arshdeep Singh has come on well, but he’s no heavyweight in the pace sweepstakes.

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Josh Hazlewood was excellent in his only outing in IPL 2020, but the Chennai Super Kings prefer the all-round skills of Dwayne Bravo and Sam Curran to the fiery pace of the Australian. But we will see Hazlewood at some point this season. For, his speed and accuracy can be devastating. No, Hazlewood won’t be traded during the auction window. He’s too valuable an asset.

These speedsters have shown that there’s a place for pace even on the slowing pitches in the UAE. Spin will play an increasing part in deciding games in this tournament, but pace will have a say in the powerplay. Prithvi Shaw and Jos Buttler will attest that.