The greatest IPL performances, No. 10: Andre Russell's 48 not out vs the Royal Challengers Bangalore
Need runs stat? Give Dre the bat
Heading into the 14th season of the IPL, we polled our staff for their picks of the best batting, bowling and all-round performances in the tournament through its history. After much debate (some of it heated), we've arrived at a top ten, which we'll be unveiling in reverse order over the next few weeks. Here's No. 10
"If you wish to be king of the jungle," says the drug baron Mickey Pearson in The Gentlemen, "it's not enough to act like a king. You must be the king. There can be no doubt, because doubt causes chaos and one's own demise." Under the Chinnaswamy lights, this innings was Andre Russell's T20 coronation.
For the first 37.2 overs of a match that lasted 39.1, Russell's contribution was negligible. Bowling a solitary over, the 14th, he was hit for two sixes by AB de Villiers, and conceded 16 runs. With the bat, he connected with only one of the first four legitimate balls he faced as the required rate soared to 19.9 an over.
The scenario was impossible for any other T20 player. But Russell had been in supreme form at the start of the 2019 season, hitting 159 runs off 64 balls across his first three innings. Despite his early swings and misses, nobody doubted that he could pull another rabbit out of his hat - not least against a side that had lost their first four games and had no bankers at the death.
"I was telling DK [Dinesh Karthik] that once we wait for the fast bowlers at the back end, I know they're going to miss their lengths," Russell said afterwards. "Pressure is going to be on - small ground, good wicket. The mindset was just simple: try and get as much sixes as possible."
And sixes he did get. The third ball of the 18th over, from Mohammed Siraj, was a full-toss no-ball, met by a cross-batted swat that somehow flew away for six down the ground. "How TF do you hit a head high full toss over wide long-on," team-mate Chris Lynn wondered on Twitter. The bat resembled a matchstick compared to Russell's bulging forearms. That first six was enough to light RCB's touchpaper.
Siraj's no-ball was his second above waist-height of the innings, leaving Marcus Stoinis to complete the over. His first ball, a back-of-a-length slower ball, was disdainfully clubbed back over his head for six more. Then Stoinis missed his length looking for a wide yorker; down on one knee, Russell launched him over long-off for six more. After a wide and two singles to finish the over, KKR needed 30 off the last 12 balls.
The question, then, was simple: where do you bowl to a man who seems to hit every ball for six? If any bowler in the world had the answer that night, it wasn't Tim Southee. Length ball in the arc? Slugged over forward square leg. Bouncer wide outside off? Slashed over third man's head. Round the wicket, overpitching an attempted yorker? Muscled over midwicket off the toe of the bat. Slower-ball bouncer? Deftly upper-cut over the keeper for four. In the slot outside off? Drilled 90 metres over long-off to level the scores.
Russell celebrated the final six - his seventh - with a glove punch so powerful that it would have knocked Shubman Gill off his feet if he had not got a hand in the way. From 1 off four balls, Russell had hit 47 off his next nine, and raced through for a single off the first ball of the 20th over to complete the unachievable victory. At the start of the season, no team had ever chased down more than 50 off the final three overs of an IPL game; thanks to Russell, KKR had done it in two of their first four games, this time with five balls to spare.
It was T20 hitting pushed to its upper limit: the world's best six-hitter in career-best form against an under-pressure bowling attack at a ground with a flat pitch and short boundaries. Just how fast is it possible for a batsman to score? Russell's innings provided the answer.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98