In the 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Prithvi Shaw is the only batsman who has been dismissed on as many as 10 occasions inside the powerplay overs. In hindsight, following his game-changing 38-ball 56 against Sunrisers Hyderabad during Wednesday's Eliminator at Vizag, the 19-year-old is now only the second teenager after Shubman Gill to score at least four half-centuries in the history of this cricket extravaganza.
So, it seems the flamboyant yet inconsistent Delhi opener had picked the right game to make his presence felt.
Prior to this encounter, apart from a 99 against Kolkata Knight Riders in the first half of this IPL, Shaw was struggling with his form. On most occasions, he got the starts, but failed to convert those into impactful contributions. And on multiple occasions, he got out trying to force the pace, which seems to be Shaw's primary role in this Delhi batting line-up while opening the innings alongside Shikhar Dhawan. He attacks the new ball while the field restrictions are on and plays shots over the in-field. This aggressive approach of Shaw puts the bowlers under pressure and it allows Dhawan to play more conservatively in order to get into his groove.
So, in Wednesday’s knock-out fixture, this was the exact plan when the two Delhi openers came out to chase down 163 on that sticky surface at the YS Rajashekara Reddy ACA-VCDA Stadium. They knew, in the second half of this chase, run-scoring would be difficult with the soft ball against Rashid Khan and Co. Hence, they had to attack the hard new ball to get the early emphasis.
And as expected, Shaw was allotted the dirty job.
The Mumbaikar was up to the task as he made his intentions quite clear when he took three boundaries off Khaleel Ahmed's first over.
In the next over, Shaw was handed a reprieve when Basil Thampi dropped a relatively easy chance at mid-off off the bowling of Mohammad Nabi. Perhaps, this was the luck factor the youngster was looking for as he just teed off from that point. Shaw went after Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the fifth over of the run-chase and took 16 runs off him. The asking rate by that time had gone down to below eight runs per over mark.
It was quite heartening to see how well Shaw had timed the ball during this knock. The wicket was not the easiest for batting and SRH had a versatile bowling attack. Yet against pacers, he was playing the back of a length deliveries beautifully. And whenever the bowlers pitched it further up, he used his high backlift into play and drove it past the in-field to the fence.
In fact, his dominating batsmanship literally pegged Dhawan back. He was reduced to just playing second fiddle to Shaw, giving him the strike back as early as possible.
Delhi finished with 55 for 0 after the powerplay overs with Shaw racking up 39 (off 24 balls) amongst those runs. That onslaught by the baby-faced, right-hander set things up nicely for his team. Even after the fall of Dhawan's wicket, there was hardly any change in Shaw's approach, which eventually led to his downfall right after crossing the half-century mark in 31 deliveries.
Critics might argue that the attempted pull shot he played against an accurate Khaleel Ahmed bouncer was unnecessary, as the asking rate at that point was hardly challenging. And there is no denying that the wicket at that juncture did allow Sunrisers Hyderabad to make a late comeback in the game. In fact, Sunil Gavaskar said on air that having got runs under his belt, Shaw should have taken more responsibility to finish the game for his side.
However, the Delhi skipper Shreyas Iyer felt that there was no point curbing the natural instincts of stroke-players like Shaw as well as Rishabh Pant.
"I personally feel they are the sort of batsmen you can't (try to) control," Iyer said in the post-match presentation ceremony. "You just have to leave them on their own and not say anything to them. Because if you say anything, it will play on their mind. When you stop a batsman like Rishabh or Prithvi, if you stop their flow, definitely they are not going to perform up to your expectations. Such situations if they go with their flow, they can win you matches, and it was really amazing to see both of them chipping in today and taking our team through."
Nevertheless, this innings of substance will provide Shaw a lot confidence for remaining few games of the tournament. The youngster has certainly peaked at the right time.
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