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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Bairstow finds himself in boundary drama; Kane Williamson marshalls his troops to reach first World T20 Final

Emotional Rollercoaster: New Zealand win thrilling semifinal by 5 wickets, guided by Neesham, Mitchell heroics.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: November 11, 2021 9:28:35 am
New Zealand beat England by 5 wickets. (AP/Twitter)

Bewarned, the boundary! It’s Eng vs NZ

A wicket-keeper since his junior days, Johnny Bairstow has spent many hours diving around on the field. But here he was playing probably the most important T20 game of his life and England’s fortunes depended on his diving catch. But this was cricket. Pardon the pun, there was a catch. And he was on the boundary ropes. Had Jimmy Neesham hit the ball a bit harder, Bairstow would have merely watched the ball sail over the fence. If the shot was slightly less powerful, he wouldn’t have to dive. This was a cruel skier, it lingered over the rope for a while and the stadium watched Bairstow with open mouth. Will it drop in or out? Will Bairstow catch it or not? He dived, he got the ball in his hands but his knee touched the boundary rope. This was a game of small margins. New Zealand had won by a few millimeters.

Good guys win; gracefully too, like Daryl Mitchell

There were two things Daryl Mitchell did for which he needs appreciation beyond the big hits. He could have stolen a run, and most batsman would have done, with the team still needing 34 off 18. But from the non-striker’s end he turned down Jimmy Neesham’s call because he felt he had got in the way of Adil Rashid, the bowler. A lovely moment in the white heat of a high pressure game. Once he found his timing and his bat started booming towards the business end of the innings, Mitchell was all grace when he hit the winning runs. He had got the full toss from Chris Woakes to the backward square-leg boundary to finish the game. And then all the pent up adrenalin came rushing out. Being the son of a Haka-dancing All Black John, a victory scream was par for the course. Mitchell started with the eyes popping and veins showing scream but stopped half way. Almost like he suddenly remembered that the Black Caps didn’t celebrate over the top. He turned abruptly when he saw the vanquished captain Eoin Morgan from the corner of his eye. All calm now, Mitchell walked up to Morgan shook hands, patted him on the shoulder and had a quiet word. After the power-hitting in the middle, Mitchell was most graceful in his final act of the night.

Doctor & Doull’s little and big injuries

Simon Doull is a hard man. Co-commentator Mike Atherton was talking over the visuals of a limping Jason Roy, who misses today’s game due to a calf strain, about what Roy told him just before the game. “He said it felt like a screw going through his calf.” Sympathy from Doull? Nope. He offered this: Based on experience, be prepared for the other calf to go, Jason, in three months time. Atherton quipped, “You are an optimist.” And Doull laughed and said, “I am just being honest here. Be prepared in three months.” Doull of course knows a lot about injuries, it had derailed his promising international career. He has intimate awareness of calf injuries as well. In 2000, on the morning of a Test, about three months from his other calf injury, the other calf went and he was replaced by Shayne O’Connor.

You name the anatomy, Doull knows how it hurts. Ankle, knee, lower-back, groin, and calf of course. He even injured his fingers while, wait for it, celebrating a win of a horse. In 2017, years after retirement, when the horse he had punted on won, he broke his finger. And tweeted: “Note to self. When your horse skips 2 lengths clear and is going to win easily, remember to tuck all fingers in as you fist punch your other palm. Winner winner broken finger. 😳#ouch.” Watch out for Roy’s other calf in about three months.

Kane do, so will

Give Kane an inch, he will dive more than a yard. Your fast bowlers are bowling well but luck is not going their way. What can a non-bowling captain do? Stand in a catching position and hope one comes his way. Just when it seemed the early phase of the game was slipping away from New Zealand, despite some good swing bowling, the breakthrough came. Captain Kane Williamson was guilty earlier of conceding an extra single when he went for a direct hit though the batsman would have made his ground. Williamson shook his head and apologised to Trent Boult the bowler. Both the fast bowlers Boult and Tim Southee were swinging the ball a wee bit but a couple of inside edges missed the stumps and England openers Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler played and missed too. Fast bowler Adam Milne was introduced and produced a fullish ball, which Bairstow drove on the up. Williamson at mid-off moved quickly and dived forward to hold onto the ball. The pressure valve released and the New Zealanders crowded around Williamson to celebrate. The ball was ordinary, the catch, like most things Williamson does on a cricket field, brilliant.

Lets. Bowlers. Be.

There are two types of Test captains – the ones that stand in slips and those who are at mid-off / mid-on. Those in the cordon next to the wicket-keeper have to shout instructions or encouragement to the bowlers from across the pitch. The second type are either too secretive about their strategy or not sure about holding on the sharp edges that fly behind the stumps. In T20, the format where slips play a bit part, mid-on is where most captains are found. This increases the skipper’s proximity to the bowler, resulting in long discussions. But Kane Williamson isn’t the type who wants to be in the ear of his bowler all the time. More so since his new ball bowlers are the highly experienced Tim Southee and Trent Boult who don’t need to be spoon-fed. Besides, with both bowlers sticking to the short of good length, outside off, Williamson was at widish mid-on to stop the cover drive. And since he likes to keep a distance from the bowlers and leaves them alone, he is rarely out of place. So when dangerous looking Braistow drove between extra-cover the mid-on, Williamson was there. He scooped the low catch by taking a couple of sideways steps and then diving forward. His position, judgement and agility ensured he was in control of the ball. The fourth umpire just needed one replay to clear his mind. Not bothering your star bowlers too much, maintaining a respectable gap always helps.

Catch it if you Kane

Kane Williamson is a textbook that reels out a new lesson everyday. So after wowing, enlightening and teaching the world how to play copybook strokes, he gave a lesson on how to take low-flung catches. Jonny Bairstow crunched a flat, lofted drive towards Williamson’s left. The New Zealand captain swooped forth, his body dropping in accordance with the ball dipping, as if they were in a tango. Once he grabbed the ball with both hands (more left-hand than the right), a smidgeon from the ground, he was aware enough to take the left hand off the ball, as he was crash landing with his left-elbow. For there lurked the possibility of the ball popping out of his palms on impact. Or worse an injury. So as he crashed into the ground, he held onto the ball as delicately and assuredly as a mother would a newborn. The balance was impeccable— every sinew was in place, like an orchestra of muscles. So was his awareness to take the left-hand off the ball.

BArmy’s Cover (drive) of ‘Our House’

There aren’t more effective inside-out cover drivers than England’s David Malan. The don of cover drives. Four of them have already come thus far in the semi-final. He holds his shape, even as he gives himself room, and picks his gap in the extra cover boundary. No wonder, Barmy Army had a song for that shot, to the tune of ‘Our House’ from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

“To the tune of ‘Our House’:

Malan, in the middle of our team

Malan, batting like you’ve never seen

Malan, makes it good to be alive

Malan, when you see his cover drive!”

Hips don’t lie

Not many batsmen can hit the ball as long as Liam Livingstone. Once in a club game, he smacked 250 off 87 balls, and the ball had to be changed 16 times. On Wednesday, in the 18th over, he smashed a Adam Milne delivery into the first-tier beyond the straight boundary, and Jason Roy had a laugh in the dug out.

It’s a technique that Livingstone has worked on a lot. It’s the back hip that powers his thunderous wallops.
“I make sure that I have a strong base. If I am balanced, I have the ability to use my back hip which gives me the power,” he told Sky Sports. He used to have a wide base – two legs quite apart – but has reduced it in the recent times which has helped his bat swings.

“I make sure that at contact, I can whip the back hip, that’s where all my power comes from.”

His explanation of some of his biggest sixes, off spin bowling, is quite quirky. And scary if you are a spinner. “The biggest sixes I have hit off spin are when the last thought has been ‘I am not there. I have been done.’ I just go through with the hands and it goes.” A booming blur into the night sky.

Bruce shrugs off trolling brutes watching gentler cricket

Abused and vilified in football by a section of the Newcastle United fan-base, Steve Bruce found comfort in cricket. The former Newcastle manager, the fall guy in the club’s ownership change, was enjoying his cricket at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, cheering on for England during their semifinal against New Zealand. Bruce has been in UAE since the England versus Australia group league game, a happy departure from the tribalism and toxicity in English football. He had even received death threats for Newcastle’s on-pitch travails. “I don’t go on it (social media), but, of course people close to me do and they are sensitive towards their father, of course, and yes (there have been death threats),” he had said back then. Last week, his son Alex had posted a photo of himself with his dad at the cricket stadium. And thanking Jonny Bairstow for the tickets. “What a great day, Dad and Lad’s day out, well done England and thanks for the tickets @jbairstow21.,” he had posted on Instagram.

After managing more than 1,000 matches in his career, when it was done, the former Manchester United captain turned to his other passion. Like England football team manager Gareth Southgate, Bruce is also a big cricket fan. And has been following an English team, that wins a fair bit.

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