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ESPNcricinfo Awards 2017 T20I batting winner: Evin Lewis' blasterclass

Gayle who? His opening partner thrashed India for 12 sixes, leading his side to their highest successful T20I chase at home

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Evin Lewis picks one off a length and sends it into the stands, West Indies v India, Only T20I, Kingston, July 9, 2017

Lewis' 125 was studded with 12 sixes. All of India's batters only hit six sixes.  •  AFP

Going into July of 2017, Lewis was properly struggling. In the ODI series against India, he scored just 67 runs off 122 balls in four innings. He batted in the middle order and at the top. He tried to build innings, and he tried to blast his way through. Whatever he did, he just didn't get it right, falling to spin twice, medium pace once, and the pace of Umesh Yadav on another occasion. He looked like a man far removed from the young sensation who, playing his second T20I in 2016, had scored a hundred against India.
And then rolled in the only T20I of India's tour of the West Indies. It was like Lewis had had his blindfolds removed. The equation was simple. West Indies needed 191, which was 38 more than West Indies had ever chased successfully at home. However, this pitch, in Kingston, was flat and quick, and the boundaries not big. Lewis was right at home, opening with the equally explosive Chris Gayle, at the time one of only two men with more than one T20I hundred to his name.
Lewis left Gayle behind soon after the early exchanges. India's plan was to give no room to the left-hand batsmen, but the moment Mohammed Shami provided even a whiff of it in the fourth over, Lewis was off.
The confidence of this West Indies side in their ability to accelerate was clear from how they didn't feel twitchy at all after only 17 runs came in the first half of the powerplay. Overs four, five, six, seven and eight all featured at least one boundary from Lewis: Shami went, R Ashwin went, Bhuvneshwar Kumar went, Kuldeep Yadav went. By the time the last of those bowlers got Gayle out, West Indies were already 82 in 8.2 overs; Gayle had scored just 18 of those runs.
This was not just crazy hitting; it was a calculated assault in keeping with the smarts of West Indies' T20 cricket, in the knowledge that there was batting depth to cover up if something went wrong. West Indies were aware India had one of the best bowlers at the death in Bhuvneshwar. They wanted India to use him up at the top with the new ball. Lewis went after the other bowlers, forcing India to bowl three of Bhuvneshwar's overs inside the powerplay. By the time he came back for his final over, the 18th, the game was over.
The result of this assault was the highest score in a T20I chase and the third-highest number of sixes in a T20I innings.

Key moment

While going after Bhuvneshwar in his third over, Lewis did provide India with an opportunity when an intended straight drive went up towards mid-off. Virat Kohli ran in from long-off, Shami across from cover. Kohli called for it, Shami didn't hear the call, but though a collision was thankfully avoided, the catch was missed.

The numbers

47 Number of runs Lewis scored in the Powerplay, the second-highest against India at the time.
6 Number of sixes in India's innings; Lewis hit 12
9 Number of wickets in hand when West Indies finished the chase - the most comfortable win in a chase of 190 or above

What they said

"Once he gets in, he's very difficult to stop and he doesn't give his wicket away. There are players who are conventional and hit the ball hard, and he's the other way around. He hits the ball sweetly and cleanly, he also hits them in some funny areas that fielding teams take a while to get accustomed to." - Carlos Brathwaite, captain in the match, and the winner of the ESPNcricinfo award for T20I batting performance of the year in 2016

The closest contenders

David Miller, 101 not out vs Bangladesh, Potchefstroom
Miller broke the record for the fastest T20I century, previously held by his South African team-mate Richard Levi, shaving a full ten balls off the mark. In the process, he took 31 runs off the penultimate over of the innings.
Asela Gunaratne, 84 not vs Australia, Geelong
Sri Lanka were 40 for 5 chasing 174 against a second-string Australia, but Gunaratne saw them through, with the No. 10, Lasith Malinga, for company in the final over.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo