May 11, 2018
There is a sense of inherent calm that defines Kane Williamson’s batting. He’s not the sort of a guy who would announce his arrival at the crease through sheer manic aggression. In that sense, he is a contrast to someone like Rishabh Pant, who would kick-start his innings with a flurry of heaves or as he showcased tonight, with those neatly orchestrated out-of-the box flick shots. Williamson, on his part, would ease himself in, with an exquisite leg glance here and a gentle nurdle there. The fact that he is not a power-hitter like Pant, works to his advantage. He would run hard between the wickets, and keeps the scoreboard ticking without much fuss. Over the years, the New Zealand captain has mastered the art of chasing down stiff targets in limited overs cricket.
Even in this IPL, as the leader of the irrepressible Sunrisers Hyderabad, he has displayed the same ice-cool temperament while gunning down tricky chases. Williamson and his team had their backs to the wall after Pant’s onslaught in the first innings. They needed 188 to win on a sluggish Feroz Shah Kotla track, and when Williamson walked out to bat at No.3, they had lost opener Alex Hales early in the chase. But the Sunrisers captain sailed along effortlessly.
He forged an unbeaten match-winning partnership of 176 runs for the second wicket with his belligerent opener Shikhar Dhawan to help the Sunrisers Hyderabad clinch a comprehensive 9-wicket win over the Delhi Daredevils. This was incidentally the joint-highest successful chase in IPL, and the Sunrisers, by virtue of nine wins from eleven games, have now officially clinched a spot in the play-offs. On the other hand, it’s a rather underwhelming end to the IPL campaign for the Delhi Daredevils.
Earlier, Rishabh Pant had single-handedly given the Daredevils an outside chance of qualification with his brutal unbeaten 128. However, his efforts were eclipsed by the efforts of Williamson (83 not out) and Dhawan (92 not out). The beauty of this match-winning stand was their uncluttered approach, which was backed by a clear understanding between the two. Dhawan, who has had a pretty ordinary run in this tournament so far, finally came to the party on his home turf. There was more intent shown in his stroke-play, and one got the sense that he was not hurrying into his shots. Perhaps, having Williamson helped him come good. Dhawan brought up his fifty in 30 deliveries — his second quickest 50 in IPL. Williamson, on the other hand, played the sheet anchor’s role to perfection. Despite his sedate start, he caught up with Dhawan in the end, and they polished off the target with seven deliveries to spare.
Reverse sweeps, switch hits and a bit of those cute little paddle shots. The stroke-play in this IPL has been outlandish no doubt, but highly entertaining nevertheless. On Thursday evening at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Rishabh Pant continued with that tradition of unabashed belligerence and insouciance batsmanship, when he flayed a pretty competent Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling attack to register his first century in IPL cricket. His unbeaten 128 — which was also the highest score in this edition — came in just 63 deliveries. His blitzkrieg propelled the Delhi Daredevils to a commanding score of 187/5 after they won the toss and took first strike. In doing so, the 20-year-old wicket-keeper batsman also gave the world a glimpse of his very own version of what can be best described as the flip shot.
Sample this. At the end of the 17th over, the Daredevils had managed a middling score of 133/4, and Pant was up against Bhuvneshwar Kumar, arguably one of the most astute bowlers in international cricket. Bhuvneshwar bowled it wide to which Pant had already pre-meditated to play it on the leg-side. Almost spectacularly, he unleashed a flip shot instead, which sailed over the third man region for a boundary. It was a last-minute switch, but Pant showed the awareness and confidence to pull it off against Bhuvneshwar.
Pant was not done for the night though. He would repeat it against Bhuvneshwar in his next over, this time though, there was no pre-meditation. Instead, he stayed still in the crease and followed the bowler to orchestrate that flip shot once again that sailed over the third man fielder for another boundary. He followed it up with a stunning one-handed whack that sailed over the long-on fence for a six. Out of the 15 fours and 7 sixes he had bludgeoned in his whirlwind knock, these three shots stood out, for the sheer thrill and ease with which he toyed around a bowler of Bhuvneshwar’s calibre.
For the first time in this IPL, Pant’s exhilarating shots had put a resolute Sunrisers bowling attack to the sword. Bhuvneshwar, who finished with figures of 4-0-51-1, bore the brunt in the death overs. But Pant was equally harsh against Siddarth Kaul and Rashid Khan. He scored 59 runs in the last four overs, and the only blip in his innings was that he was involved in two run-outs.