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Shimron Hetmyer's finishing touch is well and truly intact

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Last updated on 13 Apr 2024 | 09:06 PM
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Shimron Hetmyer's finishing touch is well and truly intact

RR won a close game against Punjab but it was the assurance from Hetmyer's finishing touch that will please the side more

The Punjab Kings-Rajasthan Royals rivalry continues to maintain its enthralling nature. Seven of their last eight matches have been decided in the last over. However, this time, it was a low-scoring match, unlike the high-scoring encounters between these two underwhelming sides in terms of popularity. 

Another aspect that maintained its status quo was Shimron Hetmyer in the finisher’s role for the Royals. The IPL has turned the Guyanese cricketer into a finisher. It started with Hetmyer’s entry into the Delhi Capitals’ ecosystem and then Rajasthan Royals have kept the left-hander in the same role. 

RR have been so adamant in delaying Hetmyer’s entry point to adhere to his finisher’s role that they have promoted Ravichandran Ashwin whenever they have lost early wickets.

The southpaw has fulfilled that role. Since IPL 2020, he has the most runs in overs 16 to 20 (752) and is in the top five on both the average and the strike rate chart for batters with a minimum of 400 runs on this criteria. 

However, Hetmyer had hit a strut in the second half of the 2023 season. Post his unbeaten 56 off 26 balls in another match-winning finish against Gujarat Titans last year, the left-hander registered five single-digit scores - 2, 3, 8, 8, 7. The concerning factor was that in each of these five innings, Hetmyer’s entry point was before the 15th over. He simply lost form. 

He recovered to score 35 off 19 and 46 off 28 in the last two games but by then, RR had missed the playoffs bus. 

In the six matches this season, Hetmyer’s entry points have been carefully crafted - 15th over, 18th over, 17th over, 19th over & 17th over. He didn’t bat against Mumbai Indians. Everytime RR have lost early wickets, the management has promoted Ashwin to lengthen the batting line-up and send Hetmyer with the sole purpose of hitting from ball one. Also, twice the Sanju Samson-Riyan Parag batted through the middle-overs. 

As a result, he faced only 25 balls in his first four innings before Saturday (April 13) and never faced more than seven balls in an innings. His scores were 5, 14*, 11*, 13* from some comfortable positions. 

But against Punjab, he had to do the tough thing. Rajasthan’s move to open with Tanush Kotian (who filled in for Jos Buttler as an opener) left them messing up a pretty straightforward chase. Rajasthan needed 35 off 20 balls when Hetmyer walked out at number six. Dhruv Jurel got out four balls later with Rovman Powell also heading back for 11 from five in the next over. 

The equation: RR needed 12 off nine balls. 

It still seemed straightforward except the pitch was tricky and Hetmyer was the only specialist batter left now. 

In the final over, RR required 10 to get back on the winning ways. Arshdeep Singh started with two accurate yorkers to make it 10 off four. Hetmyer was 13 off 7 with a four and a six. 

Arshdeep missed his yorker mark by an inch and it was enough for Hetmyer to pummel down the ground for a six. Having put the pressure on the bowler, he took a two on the next ball. Arshdeep, under intense pressure, delivered a rank full toss which the Caribbean cricketer helped over the fine-leg region for the match-winning six. 

“It's just practice, I try as much as possible to bat properly in the nets first and then when everyone's finished, I go back and try my best to hit sixes,” Hetmyer said after receiving the Player of the Match award for his 27 not out off 10 balls. 

Hetmyer, after a blip as a finisher, turned up when RR needed him the most. But more than the victory (RR were already at the top of the points table), it was the assurance provided by the left-hander that despite barely batting in this season, his finishing touch is well and truly intact. 

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