Suryakumar Yadav takes another step towards T20 greatness with Perth masterclass

Suryakumar Yadav takes another step towards T20 greatness with Perth masterclass

As this World Cup approached, there was a bit of skepticism around Suryakumar Yadav. Yes, he had played quite a few amazing rounds in both the IPL and the T20Is, but the doubt – experts who are better equipped to look at technique and so on – was how well he would handle bouncy conditions in Australia, where he had never played before. A small joke: he had even done a nice interview with ESPNcricinfo leading up to the tournament, an event that some fans say has magical jinxing powers. Three matches later, this skepticism should dissipate.
In Sydney Suryakumar scoffed at the need for a batsman in the last 10 overs, which were far more productive than the first 10 at this World Cup. In Perth he played a really special shot on probably the fastest and most bouncy track he could have played on. It was certainly the quickest and most bouncy of this World Cup, with a first slide almost to the edge of the 30-meter ring when South Africa bowled. Suryakumar’s rounds were met with a fast four-man attack. From a disastrous situation. That’s why he ended at the top of our impact ratings with 128.55 points, far ahead of Player of the Match Lungi Ngidi, who scored 105.82.

In a match where the runs came in at 6.75 and over, Suryakumar went over 10. She scored over half of India’s runs in exactly one third of the balls. No one on either side scored more. Nobody scored faster. He made his friend’s step and rebound, jumping inside the line and assisting the balls behind the square. Perhaps his best shot was the flat blow to the head of Kagiso Rabada for four. Maybe not quite Virat Kohli vs. Haris Rauf levels, but it was still a shot to be admired: off the back foot, against a real fast bowler on the bouncy lane in the tournament, and rolling back the floor for four.

More importantly, Suryakumar beat his way. A more traditional approach to a slump in this tournament has been for hitters to soak up the balls, “set up” and look to catch up at the end. It puts a lot of pressure on you and the batters to call. Suryakumar was more Marcus Stoinis than Virat Kohli.

Suryakumar went after only the fourth ball he faced, a ball after Deepak Hooda’s wicket left India 42 for 4 in the eighth. It would soon become 49 for 5 in the ninth, but Suryakumar hit Anrich Nortje for a six in the next. It wasn’t like he wasn’t clinical: he targeted Keshav Maharaj, taking away 25 of 12 balls. Overall, though, he played what is a percentage game in T20: score quickly yourself or give others a chance to do so.

South Africa might feel like they’re a bit wicket-seeking against Suryakumar: their fast bowlers threw him 12 good-length short or short balls against 13 one-length or more. The others had 38 on the shorter side and 33 on one or more lengths. Had one of the top five entered the second half of the innings with him, India might have been in a better position to use spinner overs. It just didn’t happen because when you don’t have a target in front of you, you have to take more risks, which didn’t pay off for Indian hitters.

Unlike Suryakumar, Aiden Markram and David Miller could afford to play the rough patch and then really go after R Ashwin because they knew their target wasn’t a huge one. In the end, South Africa scored eight more points in bounds than India, which was about the difference between the two teams.

India are still favorites to exit this group as their next two matches are against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and the weather in Adelaide and Melbourne, the venues for those matches on Wednesday and Sunday, looks good at least for now. They need three points from those two games to be assured of qualification, so this defeat doesn’t do as much damage to their chances as it would have done to South Africa had they lost. In the process, India found they could lead South Africa from close quarters on terms favorable to South Africa. And that at #4 they have a great all-conditions T20 in the works.

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