Hodge does it with low back lift and small sixes
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