Watching a technically-sound batsman at his best is always a purist’s delight. However, it cannot be denied that watching batsmen hit monstrous sixes at will on a regular basis is an equally fascinating sight, no matter how much the same group may want to argue against it. David Miller is not among those players whom purists love to watch or praise. Yet, they cannot take their eyes off him when he is at his best.
It was a moment to behold when Miller scored the fastest century in T20I history on Sunday against a hapless Bangladeshi side at Potchefstroom. The South African southpaw brought up his century in just 35 deliveries, thus, breaking the record of former South African teammate Richard Levi, who had taken 10 deliveries more. The way Miller played was fascinating in itself as he unleashed the beast that had been sleeping inside him for a long time.
Along with breaking the record for the fastest T20I century to date, Miller also had the chance to equal Yuvraj Singh’s record of hitting six sixes in an over in T20Is. However, he missed it by a whisker as he failed to hit the sixth one after blasting five consecutive sixes in the 19th over of the South African innings. Nevertheless, missing out on hitting the last six didn't make his knock less entertaining or less astonishing.
The fact that he had not been in his own zone for the past six months makes his knock more important for himself than anyone or anything else. He had made a great start to the year with a scintillating knock of 117* off just 98 deliveries in February against Sri Lanka in the second ODI of the series at Durban. That innings was also preceded by a knock of 40* off just 18 deliveries against the same team in the first match of the T20I series at Centurion.
However, as the year wore on, his form started fading away. His next six T20I scores read dismal single-digit figures of 11, 1, 9, 8, 7 and 9. He was even dropped from the Kings XI Punjab in this year’s edition of IPL owing to his poor form with the bat. In the five matches of this year’s IPL in which he featured, he scored just 83 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 103.75 whereas his overall IPL career strike rate reads 141.44.
He did show some glimpses of his return to form with two scores of 70-odd runs in the Champions Trophy earlier this year. However, those innings were totally different from what people expect to see from Miller. Nervousness, desperation to score runs, fear of getting dismissed and a restricted playing style were clearly visible in his approach.
Taking on Pakistan as part of the World XI team had given Miller much-needed freedom to express himself. However, he managed returns of only 32 runs in 29 deliveries in the sole T20I that saw him wield the willow in the three-match series. And the first T20I against Bangladesh at Bloemfontein turned out little different as he managed an unbeaten 25 in 19 deliveries.
However, it seemed like he was tired of his bad patch and desperately wanted to get things going for himself as they used to be. A positive mindset was visible from the very first ball of his arrival at the crease in the second T20I after he walked out to bat at the fall of AB de Villier’s wicket with the South African score on 78/3. It took him only five deliveries to score his first boundary — an elegant drive through the covers got him going. And when he danced down the track in the very next over to launch Mehdi Hasan for a boundary down the long on boundary, it seemed like a special knock was about to unfold.
The spectators were happy to see Miller back in form when he brought up his 50 off just 23 deliveries in the 18th over of the innings with a boundary. However, little did anyone know that the real hurricane was yet to strike as he took just 12 deliveries to score his next 50 runs. Mohammad Saifuddin’s figures were pretty good before he bowled the last over of his spell. Bowling figures of 2/22 in three overs is something that a team would want from a bowler in every match. However, Saifuddin became the unfortunate victim of Miller’s ‘Beast Mode’ in his last over which was also the penultimate over of the South African innings.
Five sixes followed in the next five deliveries with each one of them being better than the other. The first one went sailing over the wide long on boundary as Miller picked up the slower one quickly before swinging his arms. The second one was bowled full and outside off. Miller made no mistake in judging the length as he played an elegant inside-out shot to send the ball sailing over the cover boundary for the second six. The third one was another full delivery on his legs and the result was the same although Miller sent it sailing over the square leg boundary with a flick this time.
The bowler simply didn’t seem to learn as he bowled a similar delivery the fourth time as well. The left-handed batsman cleared his front leg and again sent it into the stands of the long leg boundary for another six. On the fifth delivery, the bowler tried something different as he bowled a short one. But, Miller being in his fluent six-hitting mode, produced the same result over the leg-side boundary with a superb pull-shot.
Saifuddin was clueless and the Bangladeshi fielders had turned into mere spectators. The bowler somehow survived the sixth six as Miller ended up driving a full and wide delivery down the long off boundary for a single.
But, with those 10 minutes of action and five scintillating sixes, Miller had already announced the return of the six-hitting monster in himself.
The 28-year old South African batsman had the last six deliveries of the innings to his expense and needed 12 more runs to score his first T20I century and eventually, the fastest in the history of T20Is as well. He scored those 12 runs off the next four deliveries. His century came with a drive through the covers that fetched him a couple of runs.
He eventually remained unbeaten on 101 off 36 deliveries, an innings that included seven fours and nine massive sixes. The most astonishing part of his innings was that 81.19 percent of his runs came in boundaries — indicative of the sort of form he was in. This innings has given Miller a much-needed boost and will surely help him get back to his groove. There are better times ahead for him. ‘Killer Miller’ is back!