Rajasthan v Hyderabad, Eliminator, Delhi May 22, 2013

Hodge does it with low back lift and small sixes

Batting higher, Brad Hodge could have easily scored 500 runs this season, but his captain will gladly take the 50 he scored under pressure from No. 7

There is something reliable about stocky men with low back lifts. When the pitch is slow or when the reverse swing is considerable, these are the batsmen you want to be finishing your innings with. They are the least likely to play stupid shots under pressure, a Twenty20 trademark. When they break into rock-the-baby celebrations, they easily defend it as not mocking the bowler they have just hit for a match-winning six, a bowler who has won many a heart with his celebrations and uninhibited play. "I was pointing out I have got children too."

Rajasthan Royals captain Rahul Dravid can tell reliable men when he sees them. Throughout IPL 2013 he has used Brad Hodge, the 38-year-old Australian, low in the order, where he doesn't get many chances. Or so it seems. "He doesn't get many opportunities to bat," says Dravid. "If he bats 3 and 4, there is no doubt he can score 500 runs as well. But there is nobody who can finish the game better than Brad Hodge, especially against quality pace."

The strategy has been put to severe test this season, and almost seemed to backfire on the big night. Dravid's young batsmen all seemed to fall to the pressure and the charm of Sammy even when chasing just 133. The eliminator was turning into a match to be decided by slogs and hoicks. Sammy's catch on the midwicket boundary to dismiss Shane Watson - full stretch in the air to pluck it overhead - was sensational, but after that it was just straight length bowling that took Rajasthan Royals from 50 for 1 to 57 for 5. Sunrisers Hyderabad's stroke-play hadn't been much better.

The game was crying out for someone to pull it out of mediocrity, and out came Hodge. The asking rate - already nudging eight - was getting out of hand on a sticky surface, and Sanju Samson was to score just 10 off 21 at the other end. It was now time for a calculated assault on a tricky pitch by the last batsman who could win the game. Just the time for a stocky man with a short back lift.

There were no risks taken. Hodge picked his bowlers - the hitherto successful Sunrisers legspinners - and chose to time his shots instead of slogging. There was a lesson there for the younger batsmen who had fallen before him. He read a Karan Sharma googly and sent it over long-on. Then he flicked him over square leg. Then he finally got the short ball. This wasn't a bad over, but it went for 18. The asking rate was back to seven an over now.

Hodge went after Amit Mishra too, but now the Sunrisers raised their game. Back came Dale Steyn and trapped Samson with reverse swing. Then James Faulkner played out dots. Even our stocky man with short back lift felt pressure now. He went slogging after Thisara Perera to kill the game in the 19th over. Failed to connect any. He was happy to accept he felt pressure. No false bravado.

"I was probably trying to get the Chris Gayle distance instead of the Brad Hodge distance," Hodge joked. "That's what can happen. When you are under pressure and looking to try to take the pressure off by going for the big maximum, and you try too hard."

In the next over, though, the cool Hodge was back, and he broke the heart of the other hero on the night. Sammy had been everywhere. Scoring runs, taking catches, doing commentary, taking wickets, Sammy had all but owned the night. Then he bowled a short ball, which Hodge pulled for a six that went the Brad Hodge distance and not the Chris Gayle distance. The game was all but over, and Hodge nailed it with another six over long-off and stole what has been Sammy's celebration this year.

For a few minutes after the defeat, Sammy sat sullen in the dugout, but he will agree he lost to the better player on the day. And he has got children too.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 24, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    Lets not forget the contribution of Samson. Staying for few overs calmed the nerve and the fact that he didnt try to hit all the balls made hodge comfortable. However he is too young to face the likes of Steyn , but watchout for the guy.

  • shankar on May 23, 2013, 18:47 GMT

    Kevin WHO??? Kevin O'Brian. Ireland has just hit 15 off the last over to TIE with Pak.

  • Sharmin on May 23, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    I do not know why RR is sticking with Yagnik. I have seen many matches Sachin Baby played and he is equal or better than Sanju.

  • Dummy4 on May 23, 2013, 12:58 GMT

    those who criticise Samson for low strike rate in this match should know that RR were at 57/5 when Samson reached at crease. What if he had gone for big shots? he could got easily.... but what he did ws right and sensible cricket under pressure.....he was ably supporting Hodge and they made a wonderful partnership which was absent through out this match....

    so what ia the need of highlighting Samsons low strike rate to demoralize him?..rather he should be applauded for his mental strength and good sense.

  • Cricinfouser on May 23, 2013, 11:16 GMT

    Somebody standsup everytime for RR be it watson,Binny,Samson,the man himself (Dravid) & this time it was Australian vetern Hodgy !! RR should not change the core of their team like CSK if they want to continue the good run in the coming seasons... Way to go for dravid & his men !!

  • yasin on May 23, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    Well. Rahul should gives some overs to hodge at kolkata. He is a handy bowler.

  • beverly on May 23, 2013, 10:38 GMT

    Congrats Mr Hodge! At almost 39, you are proving that you are still YOUNG with the bat, as Adam Gilchrist showed at age 42! I don't where some of these commentators get the idea that a cricketer at 38 is so should suddenly lose all his glory - this is not the case for those who were genuinely good! You see Dravid play as if he's 24? There must be question mark against the names of those who look so lame in the wicket and not producing convincingly at age 38 and beyond.

  • Dummy4 on May 23, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    so somehow what pollard did to watson was not alright and what hodge did to samson seems to be something great!

  • Dummy4 on May 23, 2013, 10:00 GMT

    Whatever is the strategy of Dravid & RR it is unfair to send all inexperienced players in a row and creating a tense situation. Today Hodge saved but every time he can't

  • Arul on May 23, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    Hodge is not really known for his good temper or his patience. But he is known for his willingness to perform. He waited so long and watching kids performing in his team. There came the opportunity and he delivered it. His expression is understandable.