How Shubman Gill took down Shaheen Shah Afridi to hand round one to India


It’s not as if Shubman Gill had an obvious weakness against left-arm seam bowling. It is a small sample size, but before his innings on Sunday, Gill had hit 118 ODI runs against left-arm seam bowlers, off 108 deliveries, and been dismissed three times. An average of 39.33 against this kind of bowler pales against his otherwise spectacular average of 63.08, but it hardly represents a weakness in his technique.

But if you’re an opener about to play one of the biggest matches of your career so far, and if the opposition has one of the great first-spell bowlers in the world, no one will blame you for taking the battle seriously. Gill had been intense in his preparation against left-arm seam in the approach to this match, training in repeated sessions with India’s left-arm throwdown specialist Nuwan Seneviratne.

On match day (the first of two, at least), he set India on a scorching path, first picking off some poor Shaheen Shah Afridi deliveries – glancing a length ball on the legs to the fine-leg boundary, sending a half volley screaming over midwicket – before, later in that same over, stroking even one of his decent deliveries for four. This was almost a good-length ball outside off stump, but so quickly and confidently did Gill move into his checked drive, he beat mid-off.

In Afridi’s next over, Gill was imperious. Such was his confidence, he took steps towards bowler and struck him sweetly back over his head. To a bowler currently ripping up the tournament, this was a shot of sparkling audacity.

There were two further boundaries in this over, the second consecutive Afridi over he had bowled only to Gill and been struck for three fours. The first of these was drilled between mid-off and cover, the second flayed in front of point.

These were not easy batting conditions at this stage and, at the other end, Rohit Sharma was proving it against Naseem Shah. Of his first 20 deliveries to Sharma, 19 were dots (there had also been a wide). Naseem was bowling quicker than Afridi, sure, but extracting bounce and seam movement as well. Afridi was moving the ball through the air, but perhaps did not have his usual first-spell control. Gill had prepared fiercely enough to pounce.

Against Naseem, Gill had a bit of luck. He top edged a shortish delivery outside off in the eighth over, and Iftikhar Ahmed at first slip probably should have caught it above his head, but didn’t even attempt the catch. Gill would eventually fall to Afridi, who deceived him with a legcutter and had him caught at cover.

But by hitting nine fours in the powerplay (he hit 41 off 30 in that period), and dominating Afridi within this phase, Gill allayed fears that Pakistan’s quicks would deck India’s top order again. In what little play was possible under heavy skies on Sunday, Gill’s innings glittered.

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