Kochi: If you needed a punctuation mark to describe this game, you would reach out for a big bold exclamation mark and colour it a deep crimson red. The Kochi scorecard was stunningly woeful at the end of the four sensational overs: "0 4 0 0 0 0" were the scores of the batsmen sucker-punched by Ishant Sharma, who harassed them with seam and bounce. And Kochi never recovered from that soul-crushing spell from Ishant.
The hair bobbed away in the air in characteristic fashion as he ran in, the fingers was behind the seam and the wrists snapped at the release, and the length was nearly always full. The first has been an ever-present theme with him in good and bad days, the second image hasn't been always consistently repeated, and the third was a pleasant surprise.
Ishant entered the scene after Dale Steyn took out Brendon McCullum in the first over with a delivery that jagged away to take the outside edge. It was the beginning of Kochi's nightmare as Ishant stunned them with a triple strike. Parthiv Patel stabbed a delivery that bounced and seamed away from him to the keeper, Raiphi Gomez (what was he doing at no 4?) was taken out for a first-ball duck by a sharp incutter, and Brad Hodge combusted in the fifth delivery. He played a very loose and very ambitious off drive and wafted way outside the line of the full delivery that cut in to rearrange the furniture.
Kochi were 2 for 4 then and all of their hopes rested on their opener and captain Mahela Jayawardene, who was a forlorn figure in the middle, watching the demonic destruction unfold in front of him. Ishant wasn't done yet; he reserved his best for Jayawardene. He trapped Kedar Jadhav in front with a sharp incutter in the fourth over and produced a brute of a delivery to knock out Jayawardene, and Kochi, in the same over. It screamed up from back of a good length, held its line and kissed the edge of the defensive prod en route to the delighted Sangakkara. Jayawardene gave an inquisitive, and accusing, look at the pitch before he turned and departed the crime scene.
Ishant's figures read an incredible 5 for 6 and Kochi were 11 for 6 from four overs at the fall of Jayawardene and though there were couple of face-saving contributions from Ravindra Jadeja and Thisara Perera, they were rapidly heading along a cul-de-sac to nowhere.
In retrospect, the middle-over massacre led by Sangakkara - Deccan recovered from the depths of 37 for 3 from 10 overs to reach 105 for 3 in 16- lulled one into a false perception about the nature of the track. In hindsight, Kochi will be ruing a no-ball from Sreesanth which allowed Sangakkara to break free; Sangakkara was on 5 when Sreesanth produced a jaffa - it bent back in from the off stump line to knock out the middle stump - but the third umpire confirmed the on-field umpire's suspicion that it was a no-ball.
It was the 11th over, bowled by Thisara Perera, that changed the landscape. Both Sangakkara and Cameron White, who was on 6 from 17 balls, pulled two short deliveries to the boundary to take 11 runs in that over. It wasn't your massive "big over" that IPL throws up on a daily basis but it was the spark that ignited Deccan, and Sangakkara in particular. In the 12th over, he dragged Vinay Kumar for two leg-side boundaries and threw in the conventional and the upper cut to collect two more fours in the 14th over, off Perera. He continued to slash and heave and even unfurled a paddle-swept boundary off Sreesanth but the next over over from Vinay proved the turning point.
Vinay had White holing out to deep midwicket off the fifth delivery and induced Sangakkara to edge a slower one off the next. The lower order couldn't produce anything substantial and the question lingered at the end of their innings: Was 129 going to be enough? Ishant answered it in some style.