Asia Cup: Suryakumar Yadav course correction sets up easy India win
SKY smashes a 26-ball 68* after Virat Kohli and KL Rahul struggle against the modest Hong Kong bowling, setting up India's 40-run win in the Asia Cup in Dubai on Wednesday.
Four years ago, Hong Kong came within 26 runs of defeating India in an ODI. This time, they lost by 40 runs. No disrespect to Hong Kong, but the result was a foregone conclusion even though they had bravely chosen to chase. The entire point of a match like this is to give the batters adequate game time for the rest of the tournament and by extension, the T20 World Cup. The rationale is simple: rarely does one get a better opportunity to just lay into a bowling attack that barely gets to play top-flight cricket. That’s precisely why Hardik Pandya too made way for Rishabh Pant. This was just that kind of match on Wednesday in the Asia Cup.
India finished on 192/2, an above par score for the pitch but probably not quite there considering the overall experience of Hong Kong’s bowling attack. The comparison became starker when Hong Kong were going hammer and tongs in their innings, reaching 51/2 after the mandatory Powerplay. At the same stage, India were 44/1. In fact, Hong Kong were doing well even at the halfway stage, reaching 65/2 compared to India’s 70/1. So, it won’t be a stretch to say Suryakumar Yadav spelt out the difference between the two sides.
Hong Kong eventually finished on 152/5 as India completed their second win.
What did Yadav do better than his teammates? He played the game like it ought to be—without fear and constantly innovating. Yadav took 26 balls to score 68 not out but 60 of those runs came in sixes and fours. With an incredible—but not unexpected—strike rate of over 261, Yadav featured in an unbeaten 98-run partnership off 45 balls with Virat Kohli. India scored 78 runs in their last five overs, their third best slog overs batting performance in T20Is after 86 against West Indies in Kolkata early this year and 80 against England in 2007.
There were slog sweeps that Yadav typically resorts to. He also kept shuffling across the stumps to lift the ball over third man and deep fine-leg. Straight sixes over the head, swinging through the line over sweeper cover or flicking it over deep midwicket, Yadav was in no mood to sit back and rest on singles or ground shots. It was a scintillating knock in every sense, something one gets to see more often from Yadav now. He didn’t try too hard. He just went back to his basics. "I haven't practiced those strokes before, but when I was younger with my friends, we would play a lot of rubber-ball cricket on hard surfaces,” Yadav told the host broadcasters after India’s innings. “So the shots have come there. When I was sitting inside with Rishabh and Rohit bhai, I told them I want to get the tempo higher to try and reach around 170."
So far so good. But what was the rest of the Indian batting thinking? Captain Rohit Sharma looked solid in his 13-ball 21 but after that came an inexplicable phase of batting. Kohli slowly returning to form is always heartening for Indian cricket but he still took 44 balls to score 59. There can be no logic behind KL Rahul scoring 36 off 39 balls either. The pitch was two paced and the fast bowlers were getting some movement but India, who had so emphatically bought into the aggressive school of batting in the last few months, were surprisingly subdued against a rank inexperienced bowling lineup.
There were play and misses, some tentative pushes and a whole lot of single-taking for the first 10 overs. Rahul did hit a six but was extremely scratchy otherwise, failing to hit even one boundary. Sensing India’s hesitation in the initial overs, Hong Kong tried their best to stem the flow. Overall, India played out 35 dots in a 120-ball innings, 23 of them coming till the time Kohli and Rahul were together till the 13th over. Rahul’s misery was finally over when going for a big sweep he only got an under-edge to the ball. Thankfully for India, Kohli too started to bat freely towards the end, negating his strike rate of 123 in the powerplay and 117 in the next nine overs. But it was Yadav really who gave India’s innings the fillip.