The west Indian
That helicopter shot in the last over was the show-stealer but the real pleasure of Hardik Pandya’s furious knock lay in its intelligence and how well he out- thought Dwayne Bravo.
It’s his staple shot in the end overs when he almost invites the bowler to hurl it really full at him. A slightly open stance, the batsman inside the crease, and on pitches without much bounce, the bowlers don’t see much utility in bouncers and try to go for the really full deliveries. So too did Bravo.
It all happens in a flash: the front leg shuffles away, the wrist cock brings the bat down in a hurry and an extravagant flourish at the end picks up the ball and deposits it over the boundary. That shot also tells us why Hardik is a highly desired commodity in the limited-overs game. It was first seen in 2015 during the T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament held at the Wankhede Stadium where Hardik went berserk with that shot.
But it’s how he intelligently unleashed the destruction that was more memorable. Usually, it’s his brother Krunal who comes out as the more thinking cricketer, one who adapts much better to situations and also a pretty sturdy performer in pressure situations, but Hardik too sparkled on Wednesday night.
He knew Shardul Thakur alternates between length and bouncers in the end overs. Without the accuracy in his yorkers, he normally tries to avoid them when under pressure. Hardik stationed himself deep inside the crease and waited. It was a length delivery, first ball of the penultimate over, and he swivelled to smash it over the midwicket boundary.
Then in the last over, bowled by Bravo, he went one step better. There was that helicopter strike, of course, but what followed was even better in some sense. The field set (with slip, backward point and deep backward point) indicated that the ball would be full and well outside off. That aerial strike first ball had all but killed the chance of Bravo trying anything fuller and straighter but even if he did, Hardik was ready. He didn’t show any predetermination in his shots, and stayed well back and waited. The fifth ball was full and outside off and he quickly reached out to slice it to the point boundary. Then came the last ball – full and well outside off, and Hardik stretched himself to slice it deliciously over backward point for a six.
He wasn’t done yet as it was important that he bowled well to the likes of MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav to maintain pressure on Chennai.
For Dhoni’s plan of wait-and-watch to succeed, he had to go after Hardik at some point. After all, Hardik the bowler hasn’t had a great tournament yet. But Dhoni wasn’t too keen initially and waited for Hardik to make mistakes. But they didn’t come as he kept it simple: length deliveries skidding in and Dhoni patted and tapped them around.
Only when he realised that water had gone over his head did Dhoni try to manufacture something in the 15th over. He realised Hardik had to go, as Mumbai had overs left of Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga. And he rushed out at Hardik, who again kept it simple, straight and at the body of Dhoni, who was cramped and only managed to swat his attempted pull to square-leg. Game over.
The West Indian
The long arm of Pollard would more often than not get you. He not only clubbed a few monstrous hits in the end overs but also pulled off couple of stunners in the field to tilt the momentum towards Mumbai Indians. His first victim was Shane Watson who must have thought he had a four over point when he cut a short-of-length ball. And it would have cleared most fielders, but Pollard jumped and stretched his hand up to drag down the ball and Watson sunk to his knees.
Then he went one step better to get rid of Suresh Raina at deep point. This one was absolutely smashed and seemed to be flying for a six when Pollard intervened calmly as if he was changing a light bulb. He stretched his already tall frame higher, jumped up, curled his body, put his right hand out and came down with the ball. Even he was moved this time. He turned towards the crowd and tapped his heart. Why not?