It took just the first eight overs of the Indian innings to kill the contest against Sri Lanka in the first One-Day International in Colombo on Sunday. And the reason for that was a no holds barred assault by Prithvi Shaw and Ishan Kishan. A kind of assault that, frankly, neither team was familiar with.
After electing to bat first, Sri Lanka were 222/8 in 46.5 overs when Isuru Udana was dismissed. Having got to 55/1 at the end of the first powerplay, the hosts would’ve been disappointed with their progress in the middle overs. But an onslaught by Chamika Karunaratne and Dushmantha Chameera towards the very end ensured they had some momentum going into the second half of the game.
A total of 262 would be considered below par on most days in ODI cricket. However, Sri Lanka would’ve taken confidence from the fact that they had fought their way to a respectable position, the pitch was offering turn, and they had a number of spinners in their ranks. There was indeed a glimmer of hope for them at the halfway stage.
But all it took India was an eight-over period of mayhem to scuff out any hope the Sri Lankans may have had.
It was a period in which Shaw hit seven of the first 15 balls he faced for four, in which Kishan smacked the first ball he faced in ODI cricket for six before hitting four fours in his next 10 balls. This single-minded attack took India to 84/1 after eight overs and 91/1 at the end of the powerplay – their highest total in the first 10 overs of an innings since 2013.
Shaw, coming in on the back of a stellar domestic season and first half of IPL 2021, batted with a clear mind from the get-go. He crunched the second and third deliveries he faced through extra-cover and point for four and never looked back. And it was in the fourth and fifth overs that he completely deflated Sri Lanka. He first hit Udana for a hat-trick of fours, before adding another three boundaries off the bowling of Chameera.
The right-hander scored the bulk of his runs through the off side ring by having a steady base and timing the ball to perfection. His high back-lift and back-and-across trigger movement at the crease ensures he’s in a great position to meet on the ball on the rise, and he used his strengths to great effect against the Sri Lankan pacers.
Such was the devastation he caused in the 24 balls he faced that he was declared the player of the match for his 43 runs.
“Rahul sir (coach Dravid) didn’t say anything when I went in,” Shaw said in the post-match presentation. “I was just looking for the loose balls. Even though they didn’t bowl badly, I was just looking after my game and going for boundaries. As a batsman, I try to keep the scoreboard ticking. The pitch was good in the first innings and it got better in the second innings. And I like facing fast bowlers.”
Kishan had hit the first ball he faced in T20I cricket for four. On Sunday, he went a step further and hit the first ball he faced in ODIs for six. He wasn’t at his best in the first half of IPL 2021 but would’ve taken confidence from his impressive international debut against England earlier this year.
After Shaw’s early blitz, Kishan could have taken his time to settle in. His skipper, Shikhar Dhawan, was at the other end and asked him to “take it easy and build a partnership”. But the youngster had other plans for his 23rd birthday.
Kishan rode his luck – he was dropped twice at the boundary – and didn’t hold back any punches to race his way to a 33-ball fifty. He became the first Indian to hit a half-century on debut in both T20Is and ODIs. The left-hander used his feet against the spinners wonderfully and took the aerial route with no hesitation. By the time he was dismissed for 59 off 42 in the 18th over, India had reached 143/2 and the result was a foregone conclusion.
“The way the young boys play IPL, get so much exposure, their confidence levels are very high,” said Dhawan after India’s 7-wicket victory. “The way Prithvi and Ishan batted, they finished the game in the first 15 overs itself.”
Shaw and Kishan’s fearless, all-out aggressive approach with the bat is, perhaps, the need of the hour for India as they head towards the T20 World Cup later this year. More than anything, this tour to Sri Lanka is an opportunity for the players to make a strong impression. And these two youngsters definitely did that on Sunday.
Suryakumar Yadav, (31* off 20) who was surprisingly sent behind Manish Pandey (26 off 40) at No 5, batted with a similar kind of aggression. These players embody the style of play T20I cricket is progressing towards. At times, their shot selection can be faulted. But their intent cannot.