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Match Analysis

Suryakumar Yadav takes another step towards T20 greatness with Perth masterclass

Backing his adventurous approach on perhaps the bounciest pitch he has played on, he left all his team-mates in the shade

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Going into this World Cup, there was a bit of scepticism around Suryakumar Yadav. Yes, he had played quite a few unbelievable innings both in the IPL and in T20Is, but the doubt - from pundits who are better equipped to look at technique and so forth - was around how he would handle the bouncy conditions in Australia, where he had never played before. A bit of an in-joke: he had even done a lovely interview with ESPNcricinfo leading into the tournament, an event that is believed by certain fans to have magical jinxing powers. Three matches in, that scepticism should be dissipating.
In Sydney Suryakumar made a mockery of the need for a set batter in the last 10 overs, which have been far more productive than the front 10 in this World Cup. In Perth he played a truly special knock on probably the fastest and bounciest track he might have played on. It was definitely the fastest and bounciest of this World Cup, what with first slip standing at almost the edge of the 30-yard ring when South Africa bowled. Suryakumar's innings came against a quick four-man pace attack. From a dire situation. Which is why he finished top of our Impact ratings with 128.55 points, well clear of the Player of the Match Lungi Ngidi, who scored 105.82.
In a match where runs came at 6.75 an over, Suryakumar went at over 10. He scored more than half of India's runs in exactly one-third the balls. Nobody on either side scored more. Nobody scored quicker. He made the pace and the bounce his friend, jumping inside the line and helping balls along behind square. His best shot perhaps was the flat-bat slap back over Kagiso Rabada's head for four. Perhaps not quite Virat Kohli vs Haris Rauf levels, but this was still a shot to be marvelled at: off the back foot, against a genuine fast bowler on the bounciest track of the tournament, and back down the ground for four.
Most importantly Suryakumar batted his way. A more traditional approach when in crisis in this tournament has been for batters to soak up balls, get themselves "set" and then look to make up for it in the end. It puts a lot of pressure on you and the batters to follow. Suryakumar was more Marcus Stoinis than Virat Kohli.
Suryakumar went after just the fourth ball he faced, one ball after Deepak Hooda's wicket had left India 42 for 4 in the eighth over. It would soon become for 49 for 5 in the ninth, but Suryakumar hit Anrich Nortje for a six in the next over. It wasn't as though he wasn't clinical: he targeted Keshav Maharaj, taking 25 off 12 balls from him. Overall, though, he played what is a percentage game in T20: either score quickly yourself or give others a chance to do so.
South Africa will perhaps feel they went searching for wickets a little bit against Suryakumar: their fast bowlers bowled 12 short or short-of-good-length balls at him as against 13 on a length or fuller. The others got 38 on the shorter side and 33 on a length or fuller. Had one of the top five made it into the second half of the innings along with him, India may perhaps have been in a better situation to make use of the spinners' overs. It just didn't happen because when you don't have a target in front of you, you have to take more risks, which didn't pay off for India's batters.
Unlike Suryakumar, Aiden Markram and David Miller could afford to play out the difficult period and then really go after R Ashwin because they knew their target wasn't huge. Eventually, South Africa scored eight more runs in boundaries than India did, which was roughly the difference between the two teams.
India are still favourites to make it out of this group because their next two matches are against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and the weather in Adelaide and Melbourne, the venues for these matches on Wednesday and Sunday, looks fine at least at the moment. They need three points from these two games to be assured of qualification so this defeat doesn't do their chances as much damage as it would have done South Africa had they lost. In the process India have found out they can run South Africa close in conditions that are loaded in South Africa's favour. And that at No. 4 they have an all-conditions T20 great in the making.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo