Arshdeep spills & thrills; Rohit walks the stock-strike; Hooda does a Matrix Neo; Rizwan’s scramble-hit

It could well have been real tight – who knows it might even have been game set match India – had Arshdeep Singh taken the catch of Asif Ali in the 18th over. Pakistan required 32 runs in 15 balls when Asif got a top edge on the slog sweep off Ravi Bishnoi and the ball swirled to Arshdeep at short third man. He was all cool about it, perhaps too cool, as he tried to pouch it nonchalantly. And it popped out of his hand, to his horror.

And when he saw Asif Ali looting Bhubaneshwar Kumar for 19 runs next over, it might have broken a lesser man. Not Arshdeep. He produced a stunning last over to take the game ever so close. Defending just 7, he took out Asif with a yorker in the third ball to push the game to 2 from 2. But redemption wasn’t on cards on the night, and a low full toss was hit over his head for two. And even as the fielder released a weak throw from the deep and before the batsmen completed the second run, Arshdeep flicked out the bails at the non-striker’s end. The LED lights lit up, and the light went out of India’s resistance.

Sriram Veera

That Rohit strike over cover

What was the immediate impact of Rohit Sharma’s throw caution-to-wind, stepping down the track strike over cover? Naseem Shah had a dry smile on his face, slip moved out and Rohit got a big confidence boost. A ball later he played the shot that his fans wait for – pick-up to square leg for a six. In the next over he lofted the other Pakistan pace jock straight. Even KL Rahul was inspired. Never ever has one shot meant so much for so many.

Rahul’s wristy whip over long-off

Of the numerous big hits that have already rained at Dubai, one six from KL Rahul stood out. It was a 143kmph bolt from Naseem Shah off the final ball of the third over, full and on the middle and leg line. Rahul stirred to play a wristy whip and that’s why that shot stood out. It could have been understandable had he whip-flicked it over wide midwicket or wide-long. It comes within the territory of that shot. MS Dhoni’s helicopter or Mohammad Azharuddin’s whips or any of the fluid big bat-swings over long-on from your regular garden-variety big hitter.

But this one flew over long-off, if anything, or perhaps a tad straighter. Such has been the flurry of sixes that we still haven’t had a proper replay of it, except for a side-on angle.

Was it a conscious decision to go with the line of the ball, and not go across the line? But he chose the wristy-twirl to achieve it. It does give more power for an un-beefy batsman who doesn’t muscle, and also wristy-twirl can be instinctive of course. For a batsman, who is trying to find his way back into form after coming back into the team, it was some shot.
There is a Kevin Pietersen shot that comes to the memory, not quite a twirl but for the stunning way he smashed a Dale Steyn outswinger, covering for the away swing and still managing to let his bat flow freely in that line. Likewise, for Rahul to whip pick-it over long-off is quite something.

Sriram Veera

Sign up as Virat fan, respect as opponent

The other day Haris Rauf waited after the game against India, and had Virat Kohli sign an India jersey as a gift. At the presser, he was asked, whether he quipped to Kohli, “I will still take your wicket (despite this gift)?” He smiled and said how it was lovely to interact with a player like Kohli. “It’s a game, and we play it as a game. Virat Kohli is a big player, the way he has performed for his country in international cricket, he is a legend of the game,” said Rauf during a press conference on Saturday.

Tonight was the first time they are meeting on a cricket field after that Awww moment. And what was the first ball? A sharp bouncer but in his eagerness, Rauf had banged it too short and it flew over Kohli, who ducked, and Mohammad Rizwan, who leaped, and ran away for four byes.

Sriram Veera

Caught Khushdil, via Fakhar botch-up

Some catch blinders and there are those who catch blindly. Khushdil belongs to the other tribe. There he was, getting under one Rohit Sharms mis-hit. He was perfectly placed, hands cupped and eyes on the ball. He was waiting for the ball to drop and land in his hands. And suddenly, from the corner of his eyes he would have seen a green blur. Fakhar Zaman was doing the cricketing equivalent of poking his nose in others’ business. Actually it was his entire body that he was throwing towards Khushdil. Fakhar too had his eyes on the ball, in his mind it was his catch. He was on a collision course. With Khushdil almost squatting in anticipation, Fakhar got the first go at the catch. With the possibility of injury very high, Khushdil’s eyes shut, out of instinct. But he didn’t un-cup his hands nor move them away from the path of the ball. Fakhar missed the catch, the ball escaped from his fingers, only to fall in the hands of Khushdil. Imagine how it would have felt to feel the ball in your hands while in darkness. Several horrific accidents and injuries have happened on the field in such situations. Thankfully, this one ended in laughs and a sheepish Fakhar smile.

Sandeep Dwivedi

Hooda’s arched-back Matrix four

Deepak Hooda’s acrobatics had Virat Kohli roaring and punching his bat in admiration. It was a sharp bouncer from Mohammad Hasnain, on the leg and middle line, and Hooda arched back. The ball kept rearing at his body. He kept leaning further and further back. That alone would have been creditable, just the arching sway-back to evade a bouncer, but then Kohli won’t be clapping for that. Somehow in all this Neo-in-Matrix gymnastics, Hooda managed to get the bat in line and ramped it over the ‘keeper’s head for a stunning four. He dug his bat into the ground, like planting a flag, and Kohli had his bat above his head, punching away deliriously. He also rushed across to congratulate.

Sriram Veera

Kohli’s mutant swat flick

They talk about Virat Kohli’s cover drive, but his signature shot in limited-overs is the swat flick. It was out on display in Dubai, when he shuffled across, and wondrously wristed a Mohammad Hasnain-length ball over midwicket to bring up his 50.

Kohli’s isn’t a flick, really. It’s a mutant. A swat-flick, maybe. The bottom-hand powered shot feels like a stroke borrowed from table tennis. A crack of doom. Even he didn’t know what to call it initially. At the end of a press conference in 2009 in South Africa, as he was leaving, a short chat bubbled up between us.

‘Hey! Some flick shot, that. Comes naturally to you, na?’ Kohli’s answer stunned. “No, no, in fact, I can’t recall how and where it became part of my repertoire. I think from playing these T20s, I would just play the normal flicks before. What are you calling it?” ‘Er… thinking of swat-flick, you seem to be swatting the ball but flicking it at the same time’. And he pursed his lips and walked away.

Sriram Veera

Rizwan’s many dive-lives

Perhaps, no one does risky drive–run-dives better than Mohammad Rizwan. Often, he taps the ball to mid-on or mid-off and runs across breathlessly. For all purposes it seems faulty judgements or high-confidence in his athleticism, but he often does this and more often than somehow manages to get across. Always with a dive. Some times, just short but it wouldn’t be a direct hit. At times, he doesn’t even pick a ‘slower’ fielder, he has even attempted against Ravindra Jadeja, who had missed the direct hit then. Usually, Babar Azam just trusts his call and responds swiftly.

Tonight, too, he attempted it but Hardik Pandya, at mid-off, missed the direct hit and Rizwan survived again.

Sriram Veera

Welcome song for Fakhar: Oops you did it again

You are padded up, ready to go into bat in a tense chase, the camera is on your face and what is the worst that can happen to you? Fakhar Zaman would have the answer. In a cruel broadcasting decision, they showed his many slip ups on the field while focusing the camera on his face. The last two balls of the Indian innings were a nightmare for Fakhar. On the second last ball, he failed to stop a lame drive on the cover boundary and this was followed by a goal keeper-type tipping over the bar help along that resulted in another boundary. This was after he had almost botched up a Rohit Sharma catch.

Sandeep Dwivedi

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