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Wednesday, Dec 07, 2022

Kohli, the new (six) hitman, Surya plays for the team, even when on 45 & the emotional Axar

India defeat Australia by 6 wickets, clinch series 2-1.

India defeated Australia by 6 wickets. (AP)

Kohli, the new (six) hitman

Virat Kohli projects himself as a reluctant six-hitter. He is (perhaps deliberately) underselling himself. He might not be as languid a six-hitter as Rohit Sharma or as audacious as Suryakumar Yadav. But he can hit humongous one himself (one of every 24 balls he faces is not a sorry record; Rohit Sharma’s is a marginally better 21).

But of late, he has turned the ignition on his six-hitting. In the last four games, he has struck one every 12 balls. The last of them realistically knocked Australia off the game.

India required 11 off the last over, and with a neat swing over long on off the first ball from Daniel Sams, he slashed the equation to a manageable five off as many balls. He does most of his six-hitting business from the crease. A half-stride forward, a full step back, a high back-lift, an emphatic downswing and the ball shooting off the willow like the crack of a rifle.

Surya plays for the team, even when on 45

The game’d old hands have a ‘team player’ test that helps them decide if a batsman is on the pitch for personal milestones or ensuring a win. They ask you to watch what they do when they are in their 40s. In case a batter knocks the ball around as he is approaching 50, he gets the dubious label of “selfish” from the dressing room. These are the kinds who resume hitting big strokes only after they have received an ovation from the crowd. And then there are those who have the team’s cause on their mind regardless of the score they are playing on. Surya Kumar Yadav belongs to the second category – you would have seen the awe in Virat Kohli’s eyes whenever the two met mid-pitch to punch gloves after the Mumbai Mauler had sent one more proper good ball over the fence. At Hyderabad, leading a tight chase, Surya didn’t bother being in 40s. At 45 he hit Adam Zampa’s low full toss for a wristy six – a risky shot but it didn’t matter to Surya as the run rate was climbing. Even the next ball he hit for a six. Mathew Hayden, from commentary box, called Surya’s on-his-toes riding the bounce six off Sams as the shot of the tournament but in the long run it was the six off Zampa when on 45 that would matter to India more.

Wrists, irresistible

Suryakumar Yadav hastily telegraphed his intention to step down the surface. Spotting the move, Adam Zampa bowled the ball into his body so that Yadav got no room to free those arms. A low full toss it turned out to be and for a second Yadav seemed perplexed and with little wriggle room. There seemed just one route he could take, the path down the ground, in which case the straight fielders were on the prowl. Difficult it was to get the adequate timing for the ball to soar over the ropes. But so rubbery his wrists are and sharp his brain is, even though he was not in the best of positions that he still managed to coax the ball over the ropes. He held his shape, shuffled a tad to the leg-side and with a vigorous whirl of wrists, packed the ball over mid-wicket. Of all the places, Hyderabad was the best place to unfurl the strokes, in the land of those wrist-artistes Mohammad Azharuddin and VVS Laxman.

The emotional Axar

Axar Patel was a riot of emotions. One moment, he would be throwing his hands in the air in anger. Next second, he would be holding his hands aloft in joy. He would slump to the ground in frustration; then the next ball he would leap in the air in ecstasy. It was a day when fortunes swung wildly. Cameron Green disdained him—five fours in total—but he did let the onslaught ruin his day. He terminated the well-set Josh Inglis and Matthew Wade in the same over after he had dismissed Aaron Finch and affected the run out of Glenn Maxwell. Wade’s wicket turned him delirious, not just because he had been Australia’s most devastating batsman in the series, but because it was a clever piece of bowling and a sharp bit of fielding. Released from wide off the crease, the ball angled in, landed back of length and stopped at the batsman to fox his attempted punch. The edge floated in the air, but it seemed destined to fall safely before Axar flung towards his left to snaffle the catch, before his emotions burst forth.

Red hot Green

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A full T20 game or a truncated eight-over-a-side one, Cameron Green’s sole intention is to hit every ball out of the ground. The first ball he faced in the game was a full-ish, out-swinging ball from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He was in no mood for sighters of feelers. He swung hard and wild at the ball, but only managed to miscue the ball to extra cover. He was undeterred by the failure. The next ball veered onto his pads and he ferociously cracked it for a six over square-leg. The next ball was thundered through covers, like a right-handed Matthew Hayden. The introduction of spin could not unshackle him either—he would just rock back deep into the crease, manufacture some room for himself, and use his long reach to slap boundaries. Not even Jasprit Bumrah frazzled him—he coolly picked a couple of sixes and a four. One of the sixes was a pull shot wherein he fetched the ball from outside the off-stump over midwicket. A shot that few dare to imagine against the masterly seamer. Poor Axar, he was dismissed for three fours on the spin in his next over, as Green raced to his half-century in just 19 balls.

First published on: 25-09-2022 at 11:08:10 pm
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