Shimron Hetmyer nearly pulled off a heist for Delhi Capitals, but for the brilliance of AB de Villiers, whose unbeaten 75 off 42 balls had turbo-charged Royal Challengers to 171, a score Delhi fell short of by a solitary run. It was a classical edge-of-the-seat, high-quality thriller.
It seemed just another day at the office for de Villiers, as he beguiled the audience. No stroke was un-de Villiers-like, the staple ones the audience had long got used to. But there’s still a thrilling freshness about them — he makes the audience believe that they are beholding the strokes for the first time in their lives. There is no monotony of repetition — that’s the stamp of true greatness, the legends of the game transcend the commonplace.
A typical de Villiers knock makes it difficult to grade the quality of strokes. Almost every stroke that flows from his bat is worthy of fine detailing, be it for his imagination, enterprise, or execution. But a steered boundary of Kagiso Rabada’s near-yorker was a thing of utter beauty. De Villiers didn’t quite pick it off his stumps, nonetheless it was a delivery most batsmen would have struggled to even get a glimpse of. Fast and searing just outside off-stump, not quite a yorker, but still a difficult ball to put away, de Villiers just moved his front foot away, opened the bat face a wee bit and turned the ball between backward point and short third-man, stationed to abort his cuts. The stroke ushered in a splendorous endgame.
These days, de Villiers seems to prefer the straighter boundaries than the ones behind him. Maybe, the general sluggishness of pitches might be the reason he doesn’t look to harness the bowlers as he likes, but rather generates power on his own, from those wiry forearms and twinkling bat speed. Just one six (a monstrous pull) and that steer off Rabada were the only boundaries he struck behind square. The rest were thunderous blows in the arc between cover and widish long-on. Poor Marcus Stoinis, who was designated the 20th over just because Amit Mishra was supposedly too slow! But de Villiers slaughtered him, as the Aussie all-rounder conceded 23 runs. There remained no novelty about de Villiers’ strokes, but 175 games and 5000-odd runs later, he continues to marvel.
For much of his still-blossoming career, Hetymer’s immense potential has only flickered and not quite set a match on fire in the IPL. His knock against Royal Challengers could well be that carpe diem moment, when he finally seemed to live up to his talent. It was a burst of some of the cleanest hitting one would ever behold in the IPL, dusting up memories of the old Caribbean flamboyance, strokes that dazzled as brightly as the gold chain that dangled from the Guyanese’s neck.
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Poor Kyle Jamieson would vouch for the sweet-striking abilities of Hetmyer. His first three overs had leaked just 11 runs. But the left-hander just tore into the tall Kiwi, raising hopes of an unlikely victory. The second ball of Jamieson’s final over, a gift-wrapped full toss, was hefted over deep midwicket, all fluid bat-swing and nonchalance; the fourth disappeared over deep-midwicket, another brisk swing of the bat; and the final ball was powered over long-on. From needing 46 off 18 balls, the target whittled down to a manageable 25 from 12.
But it was a pity that Hetmyer faced only four of the last 12 balls and watched in agony his captain Rishabh Pant fumbling near the finish line. In the last over, Delhi required 14, but could muster only 12. A glorious knock was laid to waste.