A strike rate of 119.2 after playing a 52-ball innings — yes, it was indeed an uncharacteristic knock by Chris Lynn at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday night. Chasing 176 on a tricky spin-friendly track, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) needed someone in the top three to play a responsible hand, and with his unbeaten 62, the Aussie was the chief architect of his team's crucial six-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the Garden City.
Traditionally, we can relate Lynn to those high-risk power shots through the on-side. Especially, in a high-scoring venue like Bangalore, we can always expect him to cut loose. However, following his shoulder surgery, it seems Lynn has remodelled his game and there has been a significant drop in his strike rate (131.91 in this season of the Indian Premier League, compared to 161.63 in the 2017-18 edition of the Big Bash League). In this season of the IPL, Lynn is not playing those free-flowing knocks. Instead, he is ready to grind and this brand-new approach was evident on Sunday night.
During this particular knock, the Aussie had a measured as well as risk-free tactic to his batting after he was given a life by Murugan Ashwin early in his innings. Lynn was just seven when Ashwin dropped a sitter off Yuzvendra Chahal at extra-cover and like a thorough professional, he made RCB pay for that lapse, but not by hitting his way out of trouble. Lynn just kept his ego aside, showed excellent temperament and did not throw away his wicket. He was ready to take the battle deep. For the most part of the KKR innings, uncharacteristically, the right-hander played second fiddle in the partnerships that he was part of.
In fact, during this run chase, the most pleasing aspect of his batsmanship was his approach against the two leg-spinners of RCB.
When it comes to playing spin, we know Lynn is not the best batsman around in the cricketing circuit. In his last innings against Delhi Daredevils, he got out bowled against the part-time off-spin of Glenn Maxwell, playing a cross-batted shot. But against RCB, he seemed determined to make an impact with bat.
The Chinnaswamy track had a fair amount of turn and RCB had two wrist-spinners, who were getting good purchase off that surface. To tackle that, Lynn just kept on sweeping. Ball after ball, over after over, he played the same shot against the RCB leggies. At times, he seemed to have no idea of which way the ball would spin, but the broom was there. He missed often, but almost every one of his runs against spin (23 to be exact) came with the sweep. Virat Kohli set a field particularly for that shot but couldn’t stop him from chipping away with ones and twos or occasional boundaries.
In the post-match presentation, while accepting his Man of the Match award, Lynn admitted that sweeping everything was perhaps not the ideal way to play spin in subcontinental pitches, but on Sunday, the tactic worked for him.
“Not easy (to dominate spinners) on those kind of wickets. Had to find a way, and bit of luck on my side tonight. Too hard to hit down the ground, those boys had it on a string there. Sweeping was the method which I found to work for me (sic),” he said.
It was unconventional but effective and that’s what counts in the end.
For the misfiring and patchy KKR batting line-up, it will be a huge advantage if someone like Lynn starts playing according to the conditions. With time, his body is getting into a better shape and we know he has the power game. But with his newly-developed approach, on slow pitches, Lynn is willing to go against his natural instinct and play the role of a sheet-anchor.
“Got to play every situation. Kolkata doesn't turn as much, gets through quicker. Might be easier to score boundaries there. Whatever the team needs, I'll do the job,” these words will provide the KKR think tank a sense of relief as they heading towards the business end of the tournament.