Clint McKay is a classical tailender. And like most late-order batsmen, he has two favoured strokes. A heave over mid-wicket and a bigger heave over midwicket. Most casual viewers of the game know that.
You would believe that Ishant Sharma does too, what with the experience of seven years and fifty odd one-dayers behind him.
Ishant is now bowling the 50th and final over of the Australian innings in the first ODI. McKay is the new man in and Australia are four balls from the end of the first innings and seven runs away from reaching a total of 300. He isn’t eyeing the cow-corner, but it is rather evident that the arc of McKay’s swing soon will. That arc meets Ishant’s slow off-cutter dead in the meat of the willow, and the ball whistles over mid-on for a boundary.
That hit doesn’t see Ishant change his plan. He bowls another off-cutter, hoping (rather than believing) that the pace — far slower than the previous delivery — will fool McKay. High hopes.
The Australian waits a second longer and smacks the slower ball into the stands beyond midwicket. It’s only the second six of his 51-match ODI career and the expression on McKay’s face tells you he has clearly enjoyed it. The shot has also taken Australia to 303, a target India failed to chase.
After India’s loss, during the post-game analysis, an exasperated Wasim Akram — the first man to reach 500 ODI wickets — couldn’t understand Ishant’s choice of variation. “Against a right-hander who slogs, one uses the leg-cutter as the away spin could induce a top edge,” say the man who coached Ishant at Kolkata Knight Riders.
Earlier in the 38th over, bang in the middle of the batting powerplay, Vinay Kumar does exactly what Akram’s advocating as he bowls to the free-swinging, right-hander Glenn Maxwell. He tests the man, who is paid millions by his IPL franchise for owning every unorthodox hit in the book, with a back-of-the-hand slower ball. Only, he forgot to pitch it. Maxwell’s face lit up when he saw a slow ankle-height