New Delhi: The high-octane Indian Premier League (IPL) is seen as an inviting field for bludgeoning, slashing and slogging batsmen. However, it is no longer so heavily loaded in batsmen's favour as slow cutters, innovative bouncers and inventive bowling skills are coming to the fore in the fifth edition of the Twenty20 tournament.
Bowlers in the ongoing season have received 16 Man-of-the-Match (MOM) awards in 44 matches, two of these getting washed out.
Considering the pitches in the sub-continent are condemned as slow and batsmen-friendly with quality bowlers running for cover and fielders on a leather hunt, this is no mean achievement.
On Wednesday night, Pakistani all-rounder Azhar Mahmood, now a naturalised Briton, bowled Kings's XI Punjab to victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore with his superb death-overs spell. His 4-0-20-3 fetched him the MOM award, his 17th in Twenty20 cricket. His teammate, India seamer Praveen Kumar, returned with best economy figures (4-0-8-0).
Hot, humid conditions are not ideal for bowlers and yet they have manfully soldiered on and turned in some outstanding performances to return with magical figures.
The most memorable spell came from South African fast bowler Dale Steyn (4-0-10-2) for Deccan Chargers against Mumbai Indians and he turned the match from a no-contest to a nail-baiter, even though his side lost.
Bowling miserly and taking wickets at regular intervals, West Indian Sunil Narine of Kolkata Knight Riders has bamboozled the batsmen with a mystery ball. His spin mesmerised Kings XI Punjab and he had amazing figures of five for 19 in four overs. With 12 wickets from seven matches at an economy rate of 5.53, he has become a real match-winner.
Delhi's stand-out pacer, South African Morne Morkel, has been hustling batsmen on the flat Indian pitches with his pace, line and length to stay at the top of the bowling chart. Unrelenting to give away his purple cap, he has 19 wickets from 10 matches with an MOM award (4-0-19-2) against Chennai Super Kings.
IPL-V has been a paradise for left-arm spinners, who have won five MOM awards. Pawan Negi of the Delhi Daredevils has been the latest to impress after taking a four-wicket haul against the Rajasthan Royals Tuesday.
Negi joins the list of un-playable left-armers, starting with Ravindra Jadeja of Chennai Super Kings, who picked up five-wickets against the Deccan Chargers.
Among the others are Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan of Kolkata (three for 17 against Rajasthan) and Royal Challengers' K. P. Appanna, who was handed over the award for his 4-19 against Rajasthan by AB de Villiers after the South African was adjudged the MOM for his match-winning 59.
Delhi's left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem (2/16) produced a MOM performance against Mumbai Indians, impressing his teammates Kevin Pietersen of England and Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene with his tidy line and length.
Bowlers are constantly on the look out for new variations, mixing speed with varying line and length. The back-of-the-hand slow ball and split finger bouncer are catching the batsmen on the wrong foot.
Last year's IPL edition saw Lasith Malinga scalp 28 wickets from 14 games. With 10 matches already played and six more to go Morkel has a good chance of surpassing Malinga and setting a new benchmark, assuming Delhi go through to the final.
Match 6, DC vs CSK: Ravindra Jadeja (DC) for his all-round performance 5-14 and 42 runs.
Match 8, PWI vs RR: Marlon Samuels (PW) for his all-round performance, 46 off 39 balls (4x4, 2x6) and 4-0-23-1.
Match 10, KKR vs RCB: Lakshmipathy Balaji (KKR) for his incisive figures of 4-1-18-4.Balaji
Match 11, DD vs CSK: Morne Morkel (DD) for his spell of 4-0-19-2.
Match 12, MI vs RR: Kieron Pollard (MI) for his all-round performance - 64 off 33 balls (6x4, 4x6) and 4-0-44-4.
Match 14, KXIP vs PWI: Dimitri Mascarenhas (KXIP) for his spell of 4-0-25-5.Dimitri Mascarenhas
Match 15, KKR vs RR: Shakib Al Hasan (KKR) for figures of 4-0-17-3 and scoring 16 off 10 balls.
Match 17, KKR vs KXIP: Sunil Narine (KKR) for his 4-0-19-5.Narine
Match 19, MI vs DD: Shahbaz Nadeem (DD) for his figures of 4-0-16-2.
Match 24, CSK vs PWI: Nuwan Kulasekara (CSK) for figures of 2-0-10-2 and taking two catches.
Match 27, PWI vs DD: Sourav Ganguly (PWI) for his all-round performance, scoring 41 off 35 balls and 4-0-27-2.Sourav
Match 29, DC vs KKR: Brett Lee (KKR) for figures of 4-0-15-1
Match 30, RR vs RCB: AB de Villiers (RCB) for his game-changing 59 runs (5x6; 3x4) off 23 balls. However, De Villiers gave his award to K. P. Appanna for his four for 19.
Match 40, MI vs DC: Dale Steyn (DC) for his spell of 4-0-10-2.Dale Steyn
Match 43, RR vs DD: Pawan Negi (DD) for his 4/18 in 4 overs.