Evin Lewis epitomised the essence of T20 batting: fearless power hitting. Neither pace nor spin could put a check on his frenzied pyrotechnics as he went hell for leather in a blistering exhibition of brutal, savage hitting.
India could argue that they fell 30 runs short of the expected total. But the destructive manner in which Lewis was batting, and with proven power-hitters Kieron Pollard and Carlos Brathwaite yet to come, it is unlikely if even those extra runs would have sufficed on the day.
There is a lot to be said for brute force in T20 cricket. Brathwaite had shown how destructive it could be when he unleashed carnage in the World T20 final against England. He made light work of the 19 runs required by muscling Ben Stokes for four successive sixes in that final over.
On Sunday another purveyor of power hitting, Lewis, dumped finesse, style and purists’ technique to settle for effectiveness in a pulverising display of batsmanship. He simply laid waste to the bowling.
Conventional batting wisdom is to “time the strokes”, “not to try and hit the ball too hard” and “play with the spin”. But a modern cricket willow in the hands of power purveyors like Lewis, Brathwaite, Gayle and Pollard can turn that wisdom upside down.
On flat batting tracks, which is almost a given in T20 cricket, and relatively small boundaries, they know that powerful mishits could carry the ball over the ropes. And when the situation calls for it they rely on their monstrous power to overwhelm opposition bowlers.
Initially, on Sunday, Lewis kept moving away to create room for himself to swing his bat through the off. After a while, when the Indian bowlers tried to cramp him with a leg-stump line of bowling, he abandoned the strategy and simply went after the bowling irrespective of where it was directed.
The 12 sixes and 6 fours at a strike rate of over 200 in his unbeaten innings of 125 tell their own tale. Of course he gave a couple of chances. But fortune has its own logic in favouring the brave.
The relentless noise from vuvuzelas blown with gusto by the Caribbean supporters and heavy gusts of wind ensured that fielders could not hear each other while going for the two high catches he offered. Both were floored as skipper Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami, in the first instance, and Dinesh Karthik and Kohli in the second, got in each other’s way.
Put in to bat India got off to a flying start as Kohli (39; 22b, 1x6, 7x4) and Shikhar Dhawan (23; 12b, 5x4) put on 64 runs in just five overs. But the arrival of debutant Rishabh Pant wrecked the early momentum. He was involved in the unfortunate run out of Dhawan as soon as he came in. Later he struggled with his strokeplay.
Luckily, Karthik was in his elements and played some superb shots. At one stage Karthik was 48 from 28 deliveries while Pant who had faced an equal number of deliveries was struggling on 24. He made amends with a rousing six and four off Marlon Samuels. But 38 from 35 balls at a crucial stage was not exactly what the team needed. Perhaps if he had batted through the innings after getting well set the final target could well have been different.
The clutch of wickets that India lost between 16th and 18th overs (Karthik, MS Dhoni, Pant and Kedar Jadhav) completely derailed the innings. A final score 190 for 6 in 20 overs was not going to suffice on this pitch and outfield.
Perhaps India’s only chance lay in taking early wickets. But that was not to be. Gayle kept his end going even as he yielded centre stage to the adventurous power hitting of Lewis. Safe in the knowledge that senior partners, Gayle for the first wicket and Samuels for the undefeated second wicket, were at hand to ensure that the West Indies stayed in control, Lewis went after the bowling like a man possessed. Lewis’ previous T20 century against India last year had come in 49 deliveries. This one was slower; he needed 53 deliveries.
Only Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4-0-27-0) came away with a semblance of steady bowling. But for the others, especially Shami (3 overs 46 runs), Ravindra Jadeja (3.3 overs 41 runs) and Ravichandran Ashwin (4 over 39 runs), it was a pasting they’d want to forget in a hurry.
Published Date: Jul 10, 2017 10:17 AM | Updated Date: Jul 10, 2017 10:17 AM