Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne
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Daniel Sams believes his work with Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting is part of the reason for his extraordinary career-best batting performance in Sydney Thunder's remarkable win over Brisbane Heat in Canberra on Monday night.
Sams had never scored more than 42 in 35 innings in T20 cricket and had only struck 12 sixes in his career prior to Monday's match. But he smashed 65 not out from 25 balls with seven sixes to steal the game from the Heat after entering with the Thunder in all sorts of trouble at 5 for 80, needing 99 runs from 56 balls.
Sams revealed post-match that his stint in the IPL under Ponting had been vital for his batting.
"It was unbelievable," Sams said. "I obviously grew up watching Ricky playing pull shots and hitting the ball everywhere. It was awesome to be able to get some work with him. He really instilled some confidence in me, and we just worked on a couple of technical things that have obviously worked for me.
"It was basically just trying to keep my hands up earlier and just getting into a little bit of a better position, a little bit more powerful, so I can access more of the ground."
Ponting was commentating on the match for Channel Seven and explained what they had been working on when Sams arrived at the crease.
"He's been working very hard on his batting, Daniel Sams," Ponting said. "He is a very, very powerful hitter of the ball. He hits the ball as far as anybody. He's been working on a few things in his back lift. Not letting his bat drop down too low after the ball has been released, trying to give himself a little bit more time to get a good solid swing on the ball."
Ponting's words were prophetic as Sams then plundered the first of seven sixes over deep square leg.
Sams' performance was even more remarkable given in his last 26 T20 innings, following his previous career-high of 42 against the Melbourne Stars in January in 2019, he had made just 107 runs at an average of 5.09 and a strike-rate of just 87.70. He only reached double-figures five times in that stretch with a highest score of just 18, and he had registered six ducks, including a first-baller against the Stars in the opening game of this season.
"I think it was just more the mental game," Sams said. "I know that, without it sounding bad, that I'm good enough at this level with my batting.
"I think I just wasn't switched on mentally and I let the occasion [of the opening game] get the better of me. And it was kind of the same last game, trying to hit a (six) first ball.
"So just giving myself a chance, take it deep, that gives me the best opportunity to get the guys over the line.
"Confidence is a really funny thing. One of the things I've been working on is to keep my confidence nice and level and not let my confidence from my performances shoot up or shoot low, just trying to stay nice and level and that way I'm able to come into every game feeling the same about it."
Sams is trying to take the same attitude to his bowling. Last year's leading wicket-taker in the BBL was rewarded with a T20 international debut against India at the SCG recently. He claimed Virat Kohli as his first international wicket but came crashing back to earth when he was asked to bowl the final over the match with India needing 14 runs to win. Hardik Pandya thumped him twice into the stands to end the match with two balls to spare.
"With that particular instance, he's the best in the world," Sams said. "My first game, he was better than me at the time. I can 100 per cent live with that. I gave it my best shot and I'll just learn from that. It was an amazing experience, I had so much fun with that.