It came to 17 runs from the final over and the choice in front of Hardik Pandya was to either bowl himself, give Axar Patel a go, or have the young Umran Malik. Unfortunately, or so it seemed initially, for Ireland, the wrong batsman was at strike. Not the rampaging George Dockrell whose blitz had almost brought India to their knees, but the lower-order batsman Mark Adair.
Two dot balls came as Malik produced two pacy length deliveries but then that second dot was a no-ball. Adair then smashed two successive boundaries – a scythe through point, and the good-old outer edge, and took a single to bring Dockrell on strike. With 7 from 2, with the game on the line, Malik produced his best ball of the match, a screaming yorker that just missed the stumps and they ran over for a bye. Adair could only get a single off the last ball, a short of length delivery outside off and India had won. Hardik smiled, and Malik blew a kiss to the skies. Dockrell winced for he knew he had missed a great chance to pull off an heist.
But before Dockrell, it was Stirling. And to understand what Stirling did, we have to go back to 2019 when he was in London, at his friends home, watching Ben Stokes on the television.
Mission 🇮🇪 accomplished!
Up Next ➡️ 🏴
— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) June 28, 2022
For some time now, Paul Stirling has wished he were Stokes and played that memorable Ashes knock in 2019 at Headingley. When Stokes flashed the match winning cut and roared like a viking, Sterling thought Stokes had achieved the “pinnacle of the game”. In his mind, since then, he has played that knock as if he himself were Stokes.
On Wednesday, he didn’t quite do a Stokes as he didn’t finish, but it was him who started the audacious Irish assault on India’s 219. Third ball of the chase, he sidled across to an inswinger and short-arm jabbed a stunning six over midwicket. Next ball was the outswinger, but Stirling was ready; this time the burly batsman let his hands go through the line, covering for the swing, and tapping it up and over cover. The next one disappeared to backward square-leg before he scythed one through cover point as four boundaries flowed in the over.
In came Hardik Pandya with a bouncer, that was thrown back from beyond the fine-leg boundary. Couple more boundaries came and it was clear that Ireland wasn’t going to go down wondering. Sterling certainly wasn’t. He pulled off an incredible straight six off the veggie Ravi Bishnoi — off the back foot over the bowler’s head, and even as he made contact with the ball, Sterling sort of side-stepped away to the leg side without even looking at the ball.
Though he fell that over, missing a googly, he had lit the fire and one after another ,his team-mates kept it burning brightly.
The captain Balbirnie’s knock was a confounding eclectic mix. There were dot balls galore but then it would be punctured every now and then with a massive six – five of them. Every time, it seemed Balbirnie was fading away, he would suddenly burst alive with a six to the leg side. Umran Malik’s bouncers were slugged away for a couple of sixes and Harshal Patel lapped for a six over fine-leg but he fell next ball, caught at deep point.
But the Irish baton had passed on to George Dockrell. On air, Graeme Swann would say that when he played, Dockerll was just a spinner who could bat a bit and was puzzled by the version in front of him now. A lower-order hitter who rarely bowls. Indians kept losing their nerves, offering full balls on the middle and leg, and Dockerell kept smashing them Just like India’s Deepak Hooda had done before.
1⃣5⃣1⃣ Runs@HoodaOnFire put on a stunning show with the bat & bagged the Player of the Series award as #TeamIndia completed a cleansweep in the 2-match T20I series against Ireland. 👍 👍#IREvRND pic.twitter.com/FsqSFl1zWg
— BCCI (@BCCI) June 28, 2022
Shape-holding Hooda hits a ton
In Deepak Hooda, one can see a great example of the ‘Shape’ that all T20 generation batsmen talk about. The way they set up at crease and the way they position their body as the hands wade through the line. Of all the spanking shots Hooda hit, two types of strokes stood out for that ‘shape’. The on-the-up through-the-line sorties lofted straight and the crunchy pulls.
The best example of the former came in the eight over of the innings, off the seamer Conor Olphert. At that moment Graeme Swann called it the shot of the knock, and it was. Even as he creamed it on the up, he sort of ticked a few boxes for that shape: the high left elbow that held the body position together even after the contact of bat with the ball. Hooda, like the modern-day batsmen, keeps pushing their hands through the shot, stretching it to its apogee, without relaxing till the end. The upper body stays firm, the head doesn’t tilt right up, and that shape is held.
— Doordarshan Sports (@ddsportschannel) June 28, 2022
The second shot – the pull – was far more attractive to the crowd packed in the tree-ringed park. Even there, there is a method and science that stands out. As if created by an animation artist. In fact, Hooda’s pull resembles the shot of the stickman in the video game Stick Cricket effects. His body too goes through similar motions – a sense of firmness about it. In fact, either due to his bat or the sound the broadcasters create these days, even the sound of meaty contact of the bat on the ball in the pulls sounds exactly from that game.
Or in other words, Hooda’s, just like many batsmen, create violence scientifically. It’s not a mere letting go of oneself, like in the olden days, but a carefully thought-out crafted hitting.
The crowd certainly loved Hooda’s pulls, especially when he sent one over them at midwicket and through the trees.
And his emotions came out when he reached the hundred, the fourth Indian after Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, and Suresh Raina to do so. He first gently hugged Suryakumar Yadav, before suddenly collapsing into a bear hug. He has certainly grabbed his opportunities this series that has followed after a good showing in the IPL.
Sublime Samson mixes style with substance
It seemed as if Sanju Samson had promised himself that he wouldn’t go for a shot-a-ball kind of mood that he can at times get into and has got into the past to his detriment. Of all the silken shots that had the commentators gasping and the crowd rasping in delight, there was a nuggety square drive in the 7th over that stands in the mind.
Craig Young’s foolish 139 kmph ball on the off stump line was pretty decent and for the majority of its trajectory, Samson hadn’t moved much, if at all. There he stood, waiting. And waiting. Or so it seemed. Suddenly, his hands stirred to aesthetically pat the ball through cover point. It was probably his best shot of the knock that had multiple wristy strokes.
— Doordarshan Sports (@ddsportschannel) June 28, 2022
Unlike Hooda, Samson’s batting is all fluidity, accentuated by his top-hand loose grip. All the regular touchpoint of a Samson knock was on show: the glance, the flick, the pull over mid-on to a short of length ball outside off, and the pulls off the legspinner Gareth Delany, whose figures of 4-0-43-0 hides the fact that he was the best bowler on view. A couple of times he dropped them short, the ball was thrown from the stands but for the main part, Delany showed a big heart. Consistency full on a length, inviting the hits, and turning it a bit to foil the batsmen’s intent. Samson unfurled a special shot against Delany too. It was a good leg break, turning from the leg and middle line, but Samson didn’t go across the line. Instead, he covered for the turn and let his hands glide through the line and up and over she flew to crash-land on the sight screen.
In the end, it was Ireland who won hearts but try telling that to the dejected Dockrell in the moment he realised he wasn’t going to end up with the treasure at the end after all the hard work. Until that last instant, though, Ireland had married style, substance, pluck, big heart, and a lot of fight and nearly got there. Just 5 runs short of a dreamy win.