“If you think you saw one good innings, it is your day, but Hyderabad were blessed with two,” uttered Harsha Bhogle.
On a day where 686 runs were scored, a double-century was scored and four wickets was taken by Mohammed Siraj, there was Michael Bracewell who scored a stunning 140 off just 78 deliveries. There is a reason they call him The Beast!
Oh, what on earth are you doing, Michael Bracewell. Chances are that if you are in Hyderabad and watching the game live, you would have gone, “Paisa Vasool” and would have cheered your loudest for Siraj. But somewhere over nearly nine-hours of riveting action, you would have spared a thought for Bracewell.
What India did was that they didn’t ‘brace’ themselves well. They almost didn’t know what hit them till it hit them. It was a spotless innings. That kind of a night but was it just India’s bowling? New Zealand hit 13 sixes, which was two more than India’s total sixes but imagine if one guy scored ten of those sixes. Stop imagining, that’s exactly what Bracewell did.
Let’s not put it lightly, Bracewell has done it previously. So, when the equation boiled down to 20 runs off one over with the left-hander on strike, it wasn’t something new.
July 10, 2022, Bracewell braces himself to hit the headlines. 20 runs are all he required. But there’s just one wicket. Remember, he’s single-handedly dragged the BlackCaps from the grave. Can he win it though?
Four, four, six, four and six, that’s how the all-rounder gets New Zealand outta jail. Bloody hell, cricket is one heck of a game. Bracewell is one heck of a player. Six months later, with the same equation and even better opposition, Bracewell could have and would have nearly pulled off the best innings of his lifetime.
But how did we get here? The truth is India’s bowling was yet again in a spot of bother. For a unit that had bowled pearlers to the top-order struggled massively when it came to the lower-order. It is not an overnight pattern, it has perhaps existed for the longest time, and is even longer than Kohli’s century-drought.
Having said that, what the left-hander did could well and truly only be attributed to his attacking abilities. Barring Siraj, Bracewell did not spare a single Indian bowler, not even Kuldeep Yadav. Against every other bowler, the left-hander had a strike-rate of well above 140 mark, and even several blitz-filled strokes en-route to his century.
“We weren't trying to win it then, just wanted to take it deep to give us a chance. We left too much to do at the end. You back yourself to get 20 runs in the last over, unfortunately it wasn't my day today,” is what Bracewell had to say at the end of the day.
Bracewell might not have won the game for the visitors, he well and truly won a place in the hearts of the cricket fans. Unfortunately, cricket isn’t won by just winning hearts, and Shubman Gill can definitely attest to that. Just as the ball was flying all over the place, the 23-year-old had a mild scare.
What if New Zealand wins this contest? Imagine the plight if you were Gill at that point in time. Pretty scary, especially after one of the best days of your life. On a night where the second highest run-scorer in your team was a 34, Gill showed his worth as a modern-day classic ODI opener. Since that day when he lifted the U-19 World Cup, there was this talk in the town or the country even that Gill was going to be the poster boy someday, he was going to do what Kohli did to Tendulkar.
It was known. In a country that has one talent after the other making it to the setup, someone had to succeed, right? But there was something about Gill, there was this aura that surrounded him that we hadn’t seen for quite some time in Indian cricket. He was just very likeable.
0, 36, 10, 20, 19 – that’s how the Little Master started his ODI career. 12, 37, 25 and 54 were how Kohli had started his ODI career. 9, 7 and 33 is how Gill started. There is something quite common between the three, all of them had a quiet start but what they did after that is really that mattered.
“Put your hands up where ever you can and applaud Shubman Gill,” said Bhogle during the post-match presentation and most of you would have done that when he raised his bat for that 200. 200 has become pretty common, there’s Ishan Kishan who has done that, there’s Rohit, Sachin, Sehwag. I mean pretty common now.
“Wasn't really thinking of 200, but once I hit sixes in the 47th over, I did feel that I could. Before that, I was playing what was coming to me,” said Gill after winning the Player of the match.
But Gill had a near chance-less innings. Luck played a part, he nearly could have been gone if either Tom Latham had collected it or had stumped him. You could have said that about any other great knocks but what the right-hander did on Wednesday (January 18) shows why he is rated as highly as he is.
“I was waiting eagerly to go out and do what I want to do. With wickets falling, at times I wanted to unleash and I'm glad I could do it at the end. Sometimes when the bowler is on top, you need to make them feel pressure. Need to avoid dot balls, show some intent and hit hard into the gaps,” said Gill at the post-match presentation.
Days like these are pretty rare. Pretty freaking rare. Even on length where others usually struggle, Gill was effortless, in his 149-ball 208 where he smoked the leather out of the ground. It was in the 49th over, three back-to-back sixes got the right-hander to the milestone. Imagine getting there with three huge sixes.
On a day where Gill scored a 200, it could have nearly been Bracewell, who would have walked away with a win. Cricket is like that. Sometimes crazy, sometimes violatile but on most days, exciting.
There’s enough said about Gill’s talent, and there’s enough seen of his potential, now it is time for him to be that poster-boy, be that next big thing that India yearns for. At this point, there’s nothing better that India could hope for.
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