Meet the new KP
The buzz in the press box was unambiguous - forget Kevin Pietersen, the real KP has arrived. Kieron Pollard played the innings of his short cricket life, as he stood his ground and hammered the New South Wales bowling into submission with his18-ball blitz that included five massive sixes and five thunderous fours. To repeat the obvious: 50 of those 54 runs came in boundaries and sixes!
As soon as he hit the last of those sixes over the sightscreen to carry his team past New South Wales' formidable target, the 6'4" Pollard wielded his bat like a sword, then bent his back to let out a roar, his monstrous frame shaking as he released all that nervous energy. He repeated that act twice, then plucked out one of the stumps and ran to square leg where his team-mates joined him in a victory dance. Almost impossible to believe that 20 minutes before, the champagne corks were poised for popping in the New South Wales camp .
The evening had already seen some incredible batting, as Phil Hughes and David Warner put on a 121-run opening stand to build an imposing platform for New South Wales. They then lost their way after Warner was out with five overs to go and fell about 20 runs short, but on a night like this, could any total have been beyond Pollard?
Even if Pollard had a reputation for being a big hitter, today the challenge was huge. After the 12th over, Trinidad and Tobago were struggling at 79 for 4; a couple of overs later, they lost another wicket and the equation now was 70 from 36 balls with only Denesh Ramdin left of the experienced batsmen, along with Darren Bravo and Pollard to offer him support. To his credit, Ramdin took the onus on himself while Pollard was getting his eye in .
With 55 needed in the last five overs, Simon Katich was nervously changing his fields. Ramdin was then run out and Pollard assumed the responsibility of providing the desired end - something he is getting used to as the leader of the lower order, but seldom has he lived up to the potential of a finisher.
"We had a chance. Ramdin is an experienced campaigner and he has brought it home sometimes and sometimes he has not," Pollard said after the victory. "In the first two overs after I came in to bat, he really took it to them and scored 20 runs but got run-out unfortunately." That's when Pollard chalked out his aim: "I'm the last (specialist) batsman so I need to win it for T&T and I must play my natural game and if it comes off it would be good for the team."
Pollard was aware of the equation and knew Brett Lee still had two overs. He told his partner Sherwin Ganga that if Lee bowled the 17th over the innings, the objective was to get at least eight runs off it. It was likely that Lee would bowl the final over, and the pair had decided to score the maximum in the last six deliveries. The advantage lay in the fact that two of the remaining four overs were to be bowled either by one of the two spinners, Nathan Hauritz and Steven Smith, or Moises Henriques. To everyone's surprise Katich opted for Henriques to bowl the 17th.
Nonchalantly, standing his ground, Pollard turned the match on its head. 27 runs came from that over, as Henriques started with a short ball and then lost himself trying to bowl yorkers. "He was trying his best and bowl to a plan, to bowl short. When he tried to bowl short I hit a boundary, and then he tried to bowl yorkers and I looked to hit straight. My plan was to whack it if he bowled short again."
Lee came the next over, but Pollard deflected him past third man for another four. Katich surprised again, sticking to Henriques for the next over, and Pollard continued to punish with supreme confidence for T&T to emerge victors.
"We had a couple of practise sessions and we knew we had to play the straight-batted shots," Pollard said. "We had discussed the cross-batted shots were not the way to go. So I watched the ball and tried to hit as straight as possible."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo