IND vs SL 3rd T20I: Suryakumar Yadav plays book cricket

Dilshan Madushanka, the left-arm seaman from Sri Lanka, had ramped up some quick pace and bounce, as well as generating some initial movement, to slip Ishan Kishan. Later, when Madushanka saw Suryakumar Yadav moving outside the stump, Madushanka followed the batsman with a quick high full toss. Most batsmen would probably have tried to fend it off by surprise, or at most a clumsy slog.

But Suryakumar remained committed to his scoop despite being unbalanced by the ball rushing into him. After making contact, he fell to the ground and recovered to find the ball had flown over the fine leg boundary.

In the same over, three deliveries later, Suryakumar now cleared some space in the opposite direction, outside leg stump. Again an alert Madushanka followed the batsman. Suryakumar flicked him six times over a deep back square leg this time.

During the Indian innings, the broadcasters showed a table showing that Suryakumar had hit 99 boundaries in the middle overs in T20Is since the start of 2022 (and would hit a few more that night on his way to a third T20I century). Next best was Zimbabwe’s Sikandar Raza, with 55. That’s the sort of gap between the rest and Suryakumar Yadav at the moment.

Suryakumar hit nine sixes during his unbeaten 112 off 51 balls, the rest of the Indian line-up managed five to make 110 off 69. โ€“ in contrast to the venue’s flat-track reputation โ€“ India rode Suryakumar’s brilliance to post 228 for 5. Sri Lanka collapsed for 137 in the 17th over, going 11 to blow up a total in which no batsman scored more than 23, to take the three-match series 2โ€“1.

These are very early days as India is looking to revamp their T20I batting unit after the top order failure in the T20 World Cup 2022. But the outlines of what could be a much more aggressive top order was visible in this Sri Lanka series, with players like Ishan Kishan and Rahul Tripathi for Suryakumar, anchored by the solid Shubman Gill.

Tripathi counterpushed in the Powerplay at No. 3 – something India has often missed in the past – after leaving Kishan on the fourth ball of the match. Tripathi raced down the court, lofting, slogging and sweeping, and started the innings 35 for 16.

However, Tripathi left the stage just before the Powerplay ended and the main act arrived.

On a surface where Gill would struggle to accelerate, and Hardik Pandya and Deepak Hooda would almost immediately carve out to the frontier straight riders, Suryakumar showed yet another amazing hitting style that only he could have devised and executed.

After leaking countless boundaries for all those outrageous scoops and movies, Sri Lanka attempted to bowl wide outside. Suryakumar waited for the slower broad yorker and cut him over the third man’s square boundary for six. It’s incredible how he can slow down the unwinding of his set up, let the slower ones arrive and still generate so much distance on the shot.

An understated whip

The whip through midwicket is an underappreciated aspect of his game, understandable with all the creative hitting that draws attention. Sometimes that whip is timed so well that it beats both long-on and deep midwicket, but even otherwise Suryakumar invariably places it well enough between the two to have room for the second run.

The six extra cover for the spinners is the one shot he’s always had and enjoyed, long before he significantly expanded his repertoire on the ground. After successive deliveries, he deposited Maheesh Theekshana in that region.

The step up, of course, has been that he now treats pacemakers with the same contempt, and with a much wider range. In the last over, after reaching one hundred in the 19th with only 45 balls, Suryakumar played with Chamika Karunaratne.

Two long, wide slower balls – the first was flattened like a rapier tennis forehand for a flat six over extra cover, to the second Suryakumar walked out and wristed it to the deep back square leg rope for four. Then he smiled contentedly and walked away, a friendly arm around Axar Patel, who hit 21-of-9 in another display of how far his swing has come.

Suryakumar has become only the fourth batsman from a Test team to score three T20I centuries, and they have also come in three different countries – England, New Zealand and India. He has only taken 43 innings – Colin Munro is a distant second with 62 innings, while Glenn Maxwell has played 90 and Rohit Sharma 140.

You look at the numbers from every point of view – and Suryakumar is so far ahead of the pack. He hits at a mind numbing 180.34 and hits a boundary every 3.74 balls in T20Is, still averaging 46.41.

But the impact he’s had is perhaps best captured beyond the realm of numbers; at the awards ceremony of the Mumbai Cricket Association at the grounds of the city’s Bandra-Kurla Complex on Friday night, the loudest cheers erupted as Suryakumar’s name was announced as one of the award winners. And he wasn’t even there. Not only fans, but also peers, juniors, seniors and drivers are under the spell of SKY. And Saturday night in Rajkot was another reason why.

SHORT SCORES: India 228 for 5 (Suryakumar Yadav 112*, Shubman Gill 46, Rahul Tripathi 35; Kasun Rajitha 1/35) defeated Sri Lanka 137 (Kusal Mendis 23, Dasun Shanaka 23; Arshdeep Singh 3/20) by 91 runs
India won the three match series 2โ€“1

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