The 2020 IPL has been amazing for all kinds of bowlers. Anrich Nortje's 156.2 kph missile, Rashid Khan's mesmerising spells - including 4-0-7-3 against the Delhi Capitals, Varun Chakravarthy's brilliance with his mystery spin, and some of the most unforgettable pieces of fast bowling from Jofra Archer. Some of them became an event in themselves. Here is a collection of a few of the best balls of this IPL, in no particular order.
In a season of near-misses and complications during the death overs, Kings XI Punjab captain KL Rahul had the chance to see his side home against the defending champions. He was batting on his third consecutive fifty, on 77, with the Kings XI needing 24 off 16 balls.
But a lot of simple equations can come apart with a sprinkling of Jasprit Bumrah, and the Mumbai Indians knew that when they chose to bowl him out in the 18th over. In return, they got a searing 149kph yorker that was so vicious in its trajectory, that the league's most in-form batsman missed its line completely. It was slanted in at the base of off stump from wide of the crease, and crashed into it as Rahul played inside the line; a shot that looked more a sudden reaction than one he could have thought too much about.
The match turned, there was a tie, and then another. Only two Super Overs late did the Kings XI eventually seal the win.
T Natarajan to AB de Villiers (Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Sunrisers Hyderabad)
ESPNcricinfo's records show that once AB de Villiers is set (batting on 30 or more), he has never been dismissed by a yorker before. In the Eliminator, he was batting on 56 off 42, with two balls left in the 18th over. Pencilled to bowl the 19th was Jason Holder, against whom de Villiers has a sensational record. De Villiers' job was to haul the Royal Challengers close to 150 as their lower order crumbled around him.
Natarajan's last two balls of that over had to be maximised or end with de Villiers at least getting to the other end. But Natarajan's yorker, starting from an initial line just outside leg and headed for middle stump, was good enough to sneak through. It wasn't express - about 136kph - but it was executed to perfection, landing just where the front boot was moments ago and then beating the inside of the bat to uproot middle stump. De Villiers' middle stump. The effect of that delivery felt strongest when the Sunrisers hobbled to their 132-run target with two balls to spare.
It is one thing to master the yorker, quite another to nail one of the masters with it.
A Jos Buttler special was unfolding: on 22 off eight, with three delightfully ambitious shots against Nortje, one of the fastest bowlers in the tournament. One was lofted over long-on dreamily, as our ball-by-ball commentator described it, followed by two languid ramps over short fine leg. One of them against a 156kph ball outside off. The Delhi Capitals were defending 161, and Buttler's last boundary had brought the Royals up to 37 with a ball left in the third over. What do you do when you are fast and you are bowling straight and still going for runs?
Turns out, exactly that.
Nortje cranked it up once again, 155kph, and coming back in off the seam to head for leg stump. At that pace, you can pin even a batsman at his flowing best to the crease. Buttler was pinned, and swishing, with his head almost falling over into the off side as this deflected onto his stumps off the back thigh. Nortje broke the momentum, and then Robin Uthappa's stumps later in the night, as the Capitals won by 13 runs.
Of the many fairytales that Chakravarthy has lived recently, the fact that he bowled MS Dhoni twice in a season is the one that makes him pinch himself most often.
If the first dismissal was a result of mounting pressure - Dhoni attempting a sweep, a shot he rarely plays - the second effort stood solely on his domination of one of his heroes. Dhoni had three balls from Chakravarthy - the first jabbed to extra cover off the front foot, the second hurriedly patted to the same fielder of the back foot. They had both spun in opposite directions and Dhoni hadn't picked them. Chakravarthy slipped in a quicker one, a 106kph slider, from wider of the crease. Dhoni had no time to react and his face clearly expressed the surprise at being beaten by the pace, even before he could complete his backlift.
There was a point until the Capitals' last league match when five of their last six matches had involved one opener getting a duck. It had all begun with Archer's picturesque inswinger to Prithvi Shaw, all the way back in the middle of October.
It was the first ball of the match, and it was perfect in just about all ways possible. Landing on a good length, just outside off, with the seam upright and slightly tilted in fine leg's direction. Shaw could be excused for the shot he attempted - a drive on the up through the off side, based on the initial trajectory. It only begins to swing just before it's about to land. And that marginal movement is enough for Shaw to get only an inside edge and help it hit the top of middle stump instead of off.
Bumrah to Shikhar Dhawan (Mumbai Indians vs Delhi Capitals)
Can you ever picture a batsman smiling as he walks off the field, his team 0 for 3 in the second over? Shikhar Dhawan knew he had no chance against this Bumrah delivery, whether it was a season of back-to-back centuries or back-to-back ducks; or both together, as it was in this case.
Bumrah had come with a plan for Dhawan, he confirmed later, and that was exactly what we saw: a thunderbolt of an inswinging yorker, just short of 142kph. He went over the wicket, creating an angle that would take a straight ball across the left-hander. But the seam was pointed to fine leg, the ball took a dip inwards and then, a rare sight - the batsman was scrambling to protect the toes on both his feet. He was successful in that endeavour, but getting bat on it was an afterthought as the ball clattered into off stump.
With every over that Lockie Ferguson bowled in this match, his first of the season, he pulled the Knight Riders back from the brink and made himself undroppable.
Underpinning that was the stuff he is known for - searing, unhittable yorkers. Manish Pandey's batting style involves him staying leg side of the ball, feet usually outside the line of it. But having all that room means little when a 148kph yorker is headed your way. Seam upright, Ferguson found the base of off stump as Pandey hurriedly chopped down at the ball; it was his third wicket of the afternoon, of the Sunrisers' most capped Indian player, and one that preceded a win in the Super Over for the Knight Riders.