"To bat with someone like him just gives you so much confidence and freedom to just go and try and express yourself."
Those were the words of 25-year-old Tom Moores, the Deccan Gladiators wicketkeeper-batter, after he and Andre Russell put on 94 for the fourth wicket in just 32 deliveries to get their campaign off to a winning start against Chennai Braves in the Abu Dhabi T10.
When the pair came together, the Gladiators had been stuttering, having managed just one six in the first five overs. But Moores and Russell bludgeoned nine of them in the remainder of the innings to catapult the Gladiators to a match-winning total of 146. Both faced just 17 balls each.
Asked what the conversation was like between the two when they were in the middle, Moores, who plays for Nottinghamshire, replied, "Who could hit the biggest six…? Which, obviously, I knew I was gonna lose. We had a bit of fun, it wasn't too serious at all, which really helped me just relax and be confident. We were just having a smile and enjoying it. And that's what we talked about, to have fun, to enjoy our cricket. Every game we play we're really lucky to be doing it."
Since Russell's arrival, at No. 5, the pair dictated the pace of the innings, wresting momentum from the Braves, who had started well by removing Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Tom Banton and Anwar Ali in the first 4.4 overs. Russell got off the mark with something of an uncharacteristic stroke: a delicate cut played with soft hands past third man. But he needed no invitation to launch one over midwicket when Dasun Shanaka gave him a delivery right in the slot.
The next over, the legspin of Samiullah Shinwari got the treatment as Russell hammered him for two consecutive sixes. By the end of the seventh, he had walloped to 31 off 11, while Moores was on a run-a-ball five.
Moores was fortunate not to run himself out off the second delivery he faced as Munaf Patel failed to collect the ball at the bowler's end. He made his luck count, smashing Dhananjaya Lakshan for two huge sixes and bringing up the team hundred with a whack over long-on. Curtis Campher - who took four wickets in four deliveries at this ground for Ireland during the recently concluded T20 World Cup - was also dispatched for 26 as the Gladiators amassed 80 runs between the sixth and ninth overs. Russell was on 42 off 15, while Moores had got himself up to 39 off 13.
"To bat some time with Dre who has done that time and time again... he's the best at doing that, so to watch him and have the best seat in the house was great," Moores said. "Someone like him has helped me a lot. I knew him a little bit from playing back home for Notts and he's someone who has done this time and time again. So he was just giving me tips and bits of advice here and there. To be honest, I was just trying to keep up with him."
Moores, in fact, went one better, as he hit another six, off Ravi Bopara, in the final over to go past Russell's unbeaten 43 off 17 and set the highest team score of the season so far. He finished on an unbeaten 47 off 17 and took home the Player-of-the-Match honour.
In the end, despite a valiant effort from the Braves, with Angelo Perera and Bopara both scoring half-centuries, they fell 24 runs short of the target. Their tally of four sixes across their ten overs was dwarfed by the ten that the Gladiators managed, and Moores underscored that six-hitting is even more pivotal in this format of the game.
"We did talk about six-hitting ability," he said. "Those extra two runs do add up. If you compare the two scores, those extra twos can change a game and be the difference. Having someone like Dre in your team, he's naturally gonna clear the ropes and all the rest of us need to just do our thing and hit as many as we can."