Jonny Bairstow is a dasher. A stroke player. A batsman who loves to bash the ball around the park. And he’s been immensely successful. On Wednesday (April 21, 2021), the England cricketer showed a new facet of his batting to guide the Sunrisers Hyderabad to their first victory in the Indian Premier League 2021. The Punjab Kings were the witnesses.
The onslaught in the powerplay and the grafting for singles was a tutorial on how to play on the Chennai pitch. Bairstow and Hyderabad captain David Warner racked up 73 for first wicket. When Kane Williamson joined Bairstow in the second half of the innings, the ball had become soft, and the dew made it soggy. It was not easy to slam the ball around. So they cut the risks and dealt in singles.
The early aggression afforded the luxury as the run rate was with their grasp. And the Punjab target of 121 was not too daunting. Yet, it required a sensible approach. Williamson has plenty of it. The New Zealand captain’s game awareness is superb. But Bairstow’s temperament was suspect when bowlers tie him down.
That’s a false notion, Bairstow seemed to say as he set about gathering singles in Williamson’s company. The two stole singles and converted ones into twos. It was an education on keeping the scoreboard ticking in adverse conditions. It bore some resemblance to Shikhar Dhawan’s innings, another dasher who curbed his instincts to take the Delhi Capitals home.
After three straight losses, Bairstow seems to be fully aware of the fragility of the SRH middle order. Another wicket and the chase could have unravelled. At least that’s what the earlier results indicate.
It’s not easy for Bairstow to rein in his natural aggression. When he opens for England with Jason Roy, the two fire from both ends. No worries about a collapse. For England bat deep. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan, and Moeen Ali are quality players who can continue to play in the attacking vein. Which is why Bairstow’s run-gathering on Wednesday was an eye-opener. It showed that he could tailor his game according to the demands of the situation. That’s what game awareness or cricketing intelligence is all about.
Contrast Bairstow’s game with Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Morgan and Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma. These two stalwarts struggled at the Chepauk pitch. They knew precisely how to bat on a slow turner but were unable to execute their plans.
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Morgan and his Kolkata teammates would like to forget the Chennai games in a hurry. He admitted on Star Sports television channel how his reading of the pitch turned out be wrong on several occasions.
Rohit Sharma knew precisely how to play the Chepauk pitch. A set batsman has to bat deep, he said after Mumbai’s loss to Delhi on Tuesday (April 20, 2021). But he didn’t chastise himself for failing to do so. Mumbai were 67/2 in 6.5 overs when Suryakumar Yadav departed. Sharma was in such good touch that he could have batted through the innings but fell to the bait set by Delhi leggie Amit Sharma. Mumbai innings went south after that.
Bairstow and Warner must have learned from the failures of Morgan and Sharma. After the initial flurry of strokes, they worked on the singles. Punjab Kings’ bowlers couldn’t do much. More so, since their batsmen failed to give them a decent total to defend. And they ran into Bairstow’s new avatar.