Stitching their third victory on the bounce — beating table-toppers Delhi Capitals by five wickets — Kings XI Punjab continued their resurgence in the IPL. From rock bottom a fortnight ago, they leapt to the fifth spot. Nicholas Pooran’s 28-ball 53 was a treatise on counter-assault and a glimpse of his sparkling future.
Pooran hung his head apologetically after a mix-up with Mayank Agarwal ended in the latter’s run-out. But by the end of the night, he was flashing a wide smile. He had just delivered a fabulous victory for Kings XI Punjab, and brightened their knockout prospects.
— Kings XI Punjab (@lionsdenkxip) October 20, 2020
Agarwal’s departure had withered their hopes, having already lost KL Rahul and Chris Gayle for 56 runs. But rather than getting cowed down, Pooran channelled the frustration into a brutal innings that announced the emergence of a genuine batting hero.
There is a striking simplicity about his batting, a minimalism of technique stamped with Caribbean flamboyance. Graceful on the off-side and powerful on the leg, the balance of his slender frame is impeccable. As is his ruthlessness. He has twinkling feet too, as he glides deep into the crease when pulling the ball, and strides out to drive off-spinners through cover. And the masterly Ravichandran Ashwin of all. He had just seen Ashwin burst through Gayle’s defence, but that did not deter him from cover-driving the first ball he faced.
When @nicholas_47 adds consistency to his skill, and he is going to very soon, he is going to light up stadiums around the world.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) October 20, 2020
Then to showcase his leg-side, short-ball mastery, Pooran struck three massive sixes, one each of Tushar Deshpande, Marcus Stoinis and Axar Patel. He rode luck — Pant fluffed a run-out and an inside edge, while several edges fell short or eluded the fielders — but in between the left-hander played some splendid strokes. None better that the six off Patel over midwicket, wherein he made a casual backward stride and just bludgeoned him over the ropes. The end was anti-climactic, edging when leaving a lifter from Kagiso Rabada, but by then he had decided the destiny of the match.
In his first 167 IPL games, Shikhar Dhawan had never scored a hundred. Not that it ever weighed on his mind, but in the next two, he has shot down the landmark twice. The latest – the first architected a daunting chase against CSK – furnished Delhi Capitals a competitive total to defend. The next highest individual score was 14.
Gabbar ke taap se tumhe ek hi aadmi bacha sakta hai. Ek hi aadmi. Khud Gabbar 🔥@SDhawan25 becomes the first player to score back-to-back 💯s in the @IPL 😎#KXIPvDC #Dream11IPL #YehHaiNayiDilli pic.twitter.com/t8Y2oPB0MU
— Delhi Capitals (Tweeting from 🇦🇪) (@DelhiCapitals) October 20, 2020
The sweep and slog-sweep were his staple strokes. All three of his sixes were slog-swept while the conventional sweep fetched him as many boundaries. Anything fractionally full, he would go down on one knee to find cow corner. The left-hander would stand outside leg-stump so he could swing his bat and shoulders freely. The bowlers would pull the length back, and Dhawan would feed on his cut shot. So raffish was he that he employed a cute paddle when Glenn Maxwell strayed on the leg-side.
Remarkable was Dhawan’s assault on spinners — against the trio of Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin and Maxwell, he smacked 61 off 32 deliveries. But his effort was still inadequate.
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