Sensational Pollard seals win for T&T
It's said that you can win or lose a Twenty20 game in a blink and Kieron Pollard, batting like a man possessed, proved the adage right by engineering a stunning win against New South Wales.
'It's not over until it's over' is another of those cricketing clichés that is not always held to account but tonight was the night for clichés - in a Hyderabad minute, everything changed.
NSW unleashed their two dynamites, David Warner and Phillip Hughes, who propelled them to 170, which seemed more than enough at one stage but Pollard, with a violent 18-ball 54, crafted a remarkable comeback in Twenty20 history.
The chase never seemed to be going anywhere after the top order had combusted and when Darren Bravo was run out, the equation read: 80 from 42 balls. Game over, surely? But everything changed in stunning fashion as first Denesh Ramdin and then Pollard played out of their skins to turn the game on its head.
It all began in the 14th over, bowled by Stuart Clark. Ramdin pinged the midwicket boundary twice before he lifted the spinner Steven Smith in the next over for a boundary over extra-cover and a slog-swept six over midwicket. However, Ramdin fell in the next over and once again, NSW were the favourites or so one thought.
If it started in the 14th over, the game-breaker was the 17th over in which Pollard simply went berserk against the medium-pace of Moises Henriques and looted 27 runs. The second ball disappeared to long-off, the third was sliced over point, the fourth, a full toss, was collected by a spectator beyond midwicket boundary, the next, another nervy full toss, was picked up from behind deep square-leg boundary, and the last delivery flew to third man. Game almost over.
If there was any doubt, it vanished when Simon Katich handed Henriques the responsibility of bowling the 19th over and Pollard finished off the chase with a couple of bludgeoned sixes.
NSW had done everything that they could till Pollard's whirlwind innings,. The bowling was disciplined and the batting was led from the front by Warner and Hughes. With only a few deliveries into the contest it was clear that pace on the ball was going to be fodder for both batsmen, especially when T&T didn't possess anyone with real speed. Warner and Hughes stayed adjacent to the line and threaded the off-side with their punches, cuts, and muscled drives.
T&T had to switch to plan B and Daren Ganga quickly brought on the spinners and medium-pacers with the ability to take pace off the ball. It worked initially as NSW slowed down from 50 in six overs to 77 in 11. The two spinners in operation at that period were the chinaman bowler Dave Mohammed and the accurate offspinner Sherwin Ganga, who both took the ball away from the left-handed openers. Both batsmen managed to prevent the adrenalin rush from kicking in and played out this period intelligently with dabbed singles and twos.
They knew Ganga had to change his bowlers at some point and the opportunity to break free came in the 12 th over against the legspinner Samuel Badree. Unlike Sherwin Ganga and Mohammed, Badree was guilty of overpitching his flighted deliveries and Warner took full toll: Two disappeared over long-on and long-off and as Badree, in trying to adjust his length, slipped in long-hops, Warner crashed them to square-leg and swung the last one over midwicket. Twenty-four runs were looted in that over and the run-rate had shot up again.
Ganga did the obvious by taking out Badree and bringing back his two best spinners. Mohammed picked up Warner's wicket and teased Hughes with his variations but Hughes knew he had to just wait for the seamers to return. And when they did, he hit them around the ground. Ravi Rampaul, who had given away three boundaries in the first over of the innings, was carted to the point and straight boundaries by Warner while Henriques lofted Lendl Simmons to long-on and to midwicket boundary.
Hughes was as unconventional as ever; those feet never seem to get in line but his bat does as he slashes and carves it around like a sword. There wasn't a single "beautiful" shot in the traditional sense of the word but then there is nothing traditional about Hughes' batting. However, there was, as ever, quite bit of skill in his violence. A shot that stood out from the general massacre that he was attempting to unleash was as deft and skilful as it gets: Rampaul almost slipped in a yorker on the middle stump in the 19th over, perhaps a touch short of the blockhole. Hughes had opened his stance, waiting to bludgeon it, but on seeing the length, he crouched back, opened the bat-face and guided it deliberately to left of backward point and to the boundary.
Hughes would have thought he had done enough to be the hero for the day but Pollard had decided to seize the day.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo