David Warner smashed a 23-ball half-century on Saturday night, but he didn’t have the honour of playing the most Warneresque shot of the match.
That shot, instead, came from Prabhsimran Singh: a genuine switch hit, with the hands swapping positions on the bat handle, to deposit Axar Patel beyond the point boundary.
This Warneresque shot was part of a Warneresque innings from Prabhsimran. It is a fairly rare feat for batters to score over 60% of their team’s runs in a completed T20 innings – where the team has played all 20 overs or been bowled out – and Warner has done it five times.
On Saturday, Prabhsimran put his name on that list for the second time.
Back in November 2021, he had done it for Punjab against Goa in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, scoring 119 off 61 balls out of a total of 197 for 4. His opening partner that day, a certain Shubman Gill, scored 40 off 36.
On Saturday, Prabhsimran scored 103 off 65 balls, out of a Punjab Kings total of 167 for 7 against Delhi Capitals, on a pitch where the ball gripped and turned far more than it does on most T20 tracks.
On that pitch, Prabhsimran truly stood alone. Of the 120 balls bowled by spinners in the match, he faced 39 and scored 53 without being dismissed. Twelve other batters combined to face the other 81 balls, scoring 65 runs for nine dismissals.
There’s a certain amount of randomness to T20 outcomes, of course. On a given day, one batter could survive multiple plays-and-misses and have multiple mishits elude fielders while scoring 80, while three others might be dismissed off their very first false shots.
But here’s the thing; Prabhsimran has been impressive against spin all season. He is one of 15 batters with 150-plus strike rates after facing at least 50 balls from spinners, and he has the best average of that group (123.00), having been dismissed only once in 77 balls.
Only seven of these 15 batters have also achieved 150-plus strike rates against pace, with the same 50-ball cut-off, and Prabhsimran is one of them. He has been dismissed far more often against pace, 11 times for an average of 19.18, but you can’t have everything, and he is just 22.
Saturday’s century showcased the best of both facets of Prabhsimran’s game.
He showed a palpable urgency against pace, and his first boundary summed up his intent – an attempted leg-side heave off Khaleel Ahmed that ended up as a top-edge over short third – which was part of a concerted Kings effort to maximise their powerplay returns. They seemed to recognise that scoring would get harder once the ball was older and the fields spread out, and went extra-hard in the powerplay, to the extent of promoting Liam Livingstone and Jitesh Sharma, their most destructive middle-order hitters, to Nos. 3 and 4.
The front-loading didn’t come off on the day, and Kings lost three wickets inside the powerplay. There seemed to be no getting away thereafter either, as the spinners tied up Prabhsimran and Sam Curran through the early middle overs. At the halfway point of their innings, Kings were 66 for 3, and Prabhsimran was on 27 off 31.
It was at this point that Prabhsimran sparked to life, the fuel provided by Capitals’ introduction of Mitchell Marsh. You could see why Capitals may have thought Marsh’s medium-paced cutters would be useful on this pitch, but on the day they simply sat up for Prabhsimran to swat over the on side. He hit two sixes and a four in that over, and Kings had impetus out of nowhere.
Watch – Highlights from Prabhsimran Singh’s 61-ball hundred
Shots all around the ground
Prabhsimran would go on to score 50 off 26 balls against the quicker bowlers, at a strike rate of just over 192, but his best work, on this surface, came against the spinners, against whom he struck at 136.67. Plenty of batters struggle to score that quickly against spin on true pitches; he achieved that strike rate while playing within himself.
The switch-hit six off Axar, inside the powerplay, may have looked audacious, but it was, in some ways, a purely logical shot for the circumstances. Axar had ripped his first ball of the match, in the fourth over, past Prabhsimran’s outside edge, and from that point on the batter seemed to decide he would not go against the turn unless the ball was pitched right up or the bowler dropped short. The switch hit was a way to find the boundary within these self-imposed constraints. He tried the same shot next ball and failed to middle it.
Later in his innings, Prabhsimran showed another facet of his game, an ability to generate serious power from a low, wide base. In the 14th over, he sunk low, onto his back knee, and slog-swept Kuldeep Yadav over midwicket – he was targeting the longer square boundary on the ground, and he cleared it with ease with a hit measuring 91 metres.
In the next over, the legspinner Praveen Dubey bowled one wide of his arc, and he dropped onto his back knee and extended his arms through a dead-straight flat-bat hit that sent the ball sailing 90 metres and into the stands. Prabhsimran was fetching the ball from well outside his eyeline, but by getting down low and attacking the ball with a closed bat-face, he was giving it no chance of skewing off the top edge.
These shots were part of an extraordinary finish to Prabhsimran’s innings, his last 34 balls bringing him 76 runs. Watching it made you wonder if he was defying the conditions, or if the pitch was easing up.
Coming into this game, the trend of matches in Delhi this season was for dew to set in and make life easier for the chasing side. Four of the five previous matches here were won by the chasing team, and the one time a team defended a total was when Sunrisers Hyderabad made 197 for 6, the highest total at this venue this season.
Through the early part of Capitals’ chase on Saturday, it looked like the match would play true to this trend, with Warner and Phil Salt putting on 69 for the first wicket in just 6.2 overs.
Once Harpreet Brar broke the partnership, however, it became apparent that this was still very much a spinner’s pitch, dew or no dew. Capitals lost six wickets for 19 runs in the space of 24 legal balls, and while wickets fall in clumps in T20 games on all kinds of pitches, the batters were struggling to put bat to ball on this one, with Rahul Chahar, in particular, getting an alarming degree of turn.
This was possibly an even tougher surface than the one Prabhsimran had batted on, but a pitch can’t change all that much over the course of a T20 game. Batting may have become more difficult in the second innings, but it couldn’t have been anything like straightforward at any point. Capitals’ collapse, then, felt like a coda to Prabhsimran’s innings, reinforcing just how good it had been.