Does it feel like Déjà vu?
Is the year 2016?
You are not alone! If you feel like we have gone through this, you are not alone. If you think that this is Déjà vu, you are not alone. Mitchell Santner does something that he only knows why and for a healthy part of the yesteryears, it wasn’t a surprise that the left-arm spinner was No.1 bowler in the shortest format.
81 T20Is isn’t a joke. 91 wickets, that’s not so much, so how really has Santner proven to be dangerous to this Indian batting unit here in Ranchi? The left-arm spinner has an economy rate of 7.05, and to think of how many overs he has bowled in the powerplay, it's astonishing.
On Friday (January 27), the left-arm spinner was untouchable. The way he turned the ball, it almost seemed like it was Nagpur all over again. Four overs, one maiden, just ELEVEN RUNS and two wickets. That’s insane!
An economy of 2.80 for a spinner in four overs is unheard of, and against a dangerous batting which consists of a batter who strikes at 180, close to impossible. You know what’s better? Against Suryakumar Yadav, the left-arm spinner just conceded five runs. He bowled nine dot balls in a row to the right-hander, showing why he is perhaps one of the most consistent bowlers in world cricket.
Again, you wouldn’t be wrong if you thought it was Nagpur all over again. In Nagpur as well, the left-arm spinner spun the ball as much, and conceded just 11 runs, picking up four wickets. Here, he picked up two wickets but conceded only 11. Everything around his spell was pretty uncanny. But what happened in Ranchi?
44 years ago, on this day, Daniel Vettori was born. On his birthday, it was a fitting spell of left-arm spin from Santner, the man who was tasked with the job of filling those giant shoes. Santner made his debut all the way back in 2015, against England in Manchester.
Since then, he has been involved in multiple memorable games for the BlackCaps but somehow year after year, the left-arm spinner has tasted sweet success in India. Santner has played only 12 matches, but in those 12 games in the country, the left-arm spinner has picked up 17 wickets, averaging 16.52.
Barring two innings, the 30-year-old has always picked up a wicket in the country. And thrice has he bowled with an economy rate of under 5 in the country, and four times under six. If you want to know how incredible that is, it is quite an achievement.
But what made tonight’s task more special was how he was against two of the in-form Indian batters – Shubman Gill and Suryakumar – and he made both their lives hell in a spell that saw the ball turn square and quite fair too. It was that kind of a night for the left-arm spinner, who in the post-match presentation joked that it was nice to see the ball spin a bit more.
“It was a bit of a shock for everyone involved, how much it kinda spun in the second innings. But it was a great game and it was pretty tight at the end. We saw a lot of runs in the ODI series and it was nice to see the ball spin a bit more,” said Santner at the post-match presentation.
Even though they had scored 176 in the first innings here in Ranchi, there was a bit of doubt in Santner's mind on whether the dew would play that big a factor. Remember, Hardik Pandya at the toss stated clear as daylight that dew will play a huge role in the second innings, and as a spinner, that already is pretty detrimental.
Why? Well, for starters, the ball is likely to skid more than turn given that it would be almost impossible to grip the ball. And that’s exactly where Santner’s captaincy and game awareness comes into the picture. India were already 15/2 before the left-arm spinner took the matter into his own hands and introduced himself into the attack.
The first delivery, the ball stuck and spun miles away from the right-handed Gill, who was caught in two minds at the crease having premeditated pull-shot. Only five runs came off that. Even though Suryakumar had nicked a boundary off his bowling, he was brave to bowl another over against the right-hander.
If it pays off, it is always brilliant but if it doesn't, it looks quite stupid doesn’t it? That’s where the experience of playing 81 T20Is comes into the picture. Santner has faced plenty of hitters in the past, and he understood the nuances of the shortest format. You don’t always bowl to your strength, you sometimes assess the conditions and bowl to the weakness of the batters.
But does Suryakumar have any weaknesses? At least the sample size of a year and a half suggests that there isn’t much. Then how? That’s where the left-arm spinner mixed up his over, sometimes with the length, sometimes with the line and most of the time with the pace. It was the change of pace that almost did it for Suryakumar in the over.
What’s more astonishing? He bowled a maiden to Suryakumar, in the powerplay. These are some of the things that were pretty unheard of before today. It also shows how Santner, one of the world’s best spinners, likes to take on a challenge. It isn’t the first time he has done it, and it won’t be the last time.
He came back just after the break, and yet again just conceded only one run. You think that’s already quite a big thing, right? Nope, being the captain, he introduced himself back into the attack in the 16th over of the innings and only conceded five runs.
To do it in one go, perhaps is heard of in T20I cricket. But to bowl three spells, and mastering a control across the three spells is pretty rare.
“That's always the challenge (on captain using himself). You don't want to be seen doing the easy overs and stuff like that. We knew it was spinning in the powerplay and it was nice to chip one out,” Santner later revealed.
During the course of the game, Santner bowled 18 dots, that’s three maiden overs. He had also equalled an age-old record held by Vettori, who had bowled 18 too.
That was Bangladesh, this was India. The bigger deal, this was in India in a ground that favoured sides chasing. It was that India, who had a quality batting unit. It was that India, who had smacked the leather out of Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana.
But this is Santner. He is made of a different gravy.
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