Clear SKY: No 4 heart of innings

Suryakumar’s impactful knock in the middle-overs helps India overcome Afghanistan by 47 runs in Barbados
Suryakumar Yadav hit a 28-ball 53 against Afghanistan in Barbados on Thursday
Suryakumar Yadav hit a 28-ball 53 against Afghanistan in Barbados on Thursday (Photo | AP)

CHENNAI: SURYAKUMAR Yadav was facing Rashid Khan. It had been ten overs into the Indian innings against Afghanistan at the Kensington Oval in Barbados. Having opted to bat on a dry surface that had little to no assistance for the pacers, Rohit Sharma and the other batters had their share of struggles.

The captain tried to go after Mohammad Nabi and got out. His opening partner, Virat Kohli, had taken his time to settle. He had been cautious, picking up twos and singles while Rishabh Pant tried to go after almost every delivery. For a brief while, it worked. India cruised to 47/1 in six overs. It was when Rashid came on.

The Afghanistan captain started off against Kohli, and bowled five balls without conceding a single boundary off the bat. An aggressive Pant was also going to take him on. So, a reverse sweep followed but he only connected with air. The ball thudded into the back leg and he was adjudged leg-before. With Noor Ahmad delivering a boundary-less over from the other end, the pressure went up.

This time, it caught up to Kohli, who tried to loft Rashid over long-off only to find the fielder. In a span of 15 balls since the powerplay, India had lost two wickets while adding as many runs. However, on the last ball of the over, Yadav stretched across and swept Rashid for a boundary, giving a glimpse of what was to come. With Shivam Dube hitting a six off Noor, India had gotten to 79/3 in ten overs.

Once again, it was down to Yadav vs Rashid. The contest that had the potential to make or break India’s innings. Rashid had been bowling like he had a thread attached to the ball, making it do whatever he intended.

The first ball of the 11th over, a fuller delivery on the pads, Yadav pounced on it. A sharp sweep to the ropes. Second ball, another 96kph length delivery, Yadav tried to sweep again. This time, he missed it but thankfully prevented the ball from rolling on to the stumps. Was he playing one too many shots? Would he try again? The questions lingered. Unperturbed by all this, Yadav did one better. He got under a full delivery and deposited the ball into the stands with a slog sweep. SKY had landed in Barbados and given the push India needed. The leg-spinner would go on to trap Dube on the pads in the same over, but it didn’t matter. Yadav had gained the momentum he needed.

The Mumbaikar did not just stop there. He went on to sweep a wide full toss off Azmatullah Omarzai and followed it up with an hold-the-pose loft down the ground. A similar shot two overs later took Yadav, who was batting at a strike rate of 180, into the 40s.

What it also did was allow Hardik Pandya too accumulate runs without undue risks. By the time Yadav got out for 53 from 28 balls, India had crossed the 150-run mark. Pandya and rest took India to 181/8 but it was Yadav’s 14 runs off Rashid (he conceded 3/26) that set the tone. It came as no surprise because he is one of the few India batters who thrives in middle-overs (165.91 SR in T20Is). “Absolutely, that’s what I have practiced. I enjoy batting in the phase between 7-15. That’s a very difficult phase and I tried to take charge. I know how to bat in this phase. With the left-hander coming in, it made my job easier,” Yadav told the broadcasters.

Maybe, having Dube at the other end did help him mentally. But on a surface where everyone else seemed to be struggling, it was Yadav who stepped up for India with the bat. And it was more than enough as the bowlers dismissed Afghanistan for 134 to secure a 47-run win. Brief scores: India 181/8 in 20 ovs (Suryakumar 53, Hardik 32, Virat 20; Rashid 3/26, Farooqi 3/33)

bt Afghanistan 134 in 20 ovs (Azmatullah 26; Bumrah 3/7, Arshdeep 3/36).

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