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Ugly is beautiful for Dwaine Pretorius the batter as he gets going, one tick at a time

The allrounder's quick runs from No. 3 in the first T20I was no surprise - he's done it before, after all

Deivarayan Muthu
At the IPL, which he described as part of his "bucket list", Dwaine Pretorius got the opportunity to work with Chennai Super Kings batting coach Mike Hussey, who has had a strong influence on his approach.
When Pretorius asked Hussey what made him tick, the former Australia batter said that he used to make notes of the things that worked for him over a period of time and repeat those at the crease. Pretorius took a leaf out of Hussey's playbook at the IPL and made his own list of five points, on his personal website, that were "very important" for him while batting.
  • I believe whenever my body language is good and my energy is up and my mind is alert. Then that is when I play my best cricket so the first one as I'm walking out onto the field is to charge out for like five or six meters, have good intensity, run, lift my legs up, or whatever it is that makes me tick on the day but just get my energy up and I'm saying go let's go.
  • The second one is the method, what am I going to do now in the next 3 balls? Take my time or am I going to play? What is my method? What am I thinking? Yeah, and then after that I have decided my method.
  • I get clarity on what type of shots I'm looking to play. Am I looking to go aerial? Am I looking to just defend it? Am I looking to get through the next three balls or am I looking to explode in the next three balls? This creates a lot of clarity for me.
  • Next, my fourth thing that I really make sure that I remember is a very important thing for myself and that is when I'm triggering I need to trigger quite early. So for me, the word that I think of is Get ready.
  • The last one is to watch the ball onto the bat or make good contact with the ball. That is the last thing that I would tell myself as the bowler is running in to make good contact.
  • Bumped up to bat at No. 3 in a steep chase of 212 against India in Delhi on Thursday, Pretorius ticked most of those points while clattering a 13-ball 29, which set the scene for South Africa's highest successful T20I chase. According to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, which adds context to every performance, Pretorius' knock was actually worth 38 runs.
    In the Covid-19-enforced absence of Aiden Markram, South Africa had promoted Pretorius as a pinch-hitter after they lost Temba Bavuma in the third over. What stood out from the get-go was the third point: clarity. Pretorius scythed his second ball, from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, for four and then he unsettled India's premier spinner Yuzvendra Chahal by slog-sweeping his second ball over midwicket for six.
    India turned to Hardik Pandya, fresh off a sensational spell for Gujarat Titans in the IPL final. Hardik's first ball burst from a short of a length and whizzed past the shoulder of Pretorius' swinging bat. Some balls were zipping through like that while others didn't come on to the bat on a tricky track, but that didn't cloud Pretorius' clarity of thought.
    Despite the presence of deep square-leg and long leg, Pretorius launched three leg-side sixes in four balls, taking South Africa up to 60 for 1 in five overs. When Pretorius tried to maximise the last over of the powerplay, Harshal Patel castled him with a signature slower dipper. Pretorius had done his job, though, as David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen launched from the platform he had laid.
    Pretorius' promotion shouldn't have come as a surprise to the South African audience. After all, his highest T20 score of 77 not out came from No. 3, against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers in 2019. In the Mzansi Super League final the same year, he marked his return from a hand injury with a 21-ball 43 in a similar pinch-hitting No. 3 role, helping Paarl Rocks secure the title.
    van der Dussen, Pretorius' former team-mate at Lions and Jozi Stars, certainly wasn't surprised with what he saw. "I think Dwaine is probably one of the guys in world cricket that hits the hardest, if you look at his domestic and international stats," he said at the post-match press conference. "No. 3 is a position that he has been successful at before and the thing tonight [was] he had clear instruction to go in and put the bowlers under pressure.
    "A total of that nature you sort of know you have to go hard for 20 overs. And we know when Dwaine gets it right it's really, really tough to bowl to him because he's just so powerful. He played brilliantly and got out to a really good ball from Harshal, but I think he will take a lot of confidence from that and going into the series, I think he's definitely going to put the bowlers under pressure."
    With Markram still recovering from illness and young Tristan Stubbs just working his way into international cricket, Pretorius will have greater responsibility with the bat in a thin line-up during this series in India.
    At the T20 World Cup last year in the UAE, Pretorius had called bowling at the death as an "ugly job". Similarly, you don't have to look pretty while batting in the powerplay. If Pretorius can keep doing that job - with bat and ball - and keep ticking things off that list, it will give South Africa a leg-up, in the lead-up to another World Cup.

    Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo