The Grafter

Australian cricket player John Hastings
John Hastings (via bestofT20.com)

IPL 2016 — 2nd match: Kolkata Knight Riders v Delhi Daredevils, 10 April 2016

5.2
Hastings to Nair, no run, nibbles away off the seam again, Nair is late on the drive, doesn’t miss the edge by much

Sweat rained from John Hastings’ brow as he shook his head. He’d beaten the bat, again – the fourth time in eight balls.

The mercury was hovering around 37° C. Hastings is a big man, and even though he is from sun-scorched Australia, no human is built for charging in and bowling at 140 kph on a humid Kolkata evening. Conditions like this are why elite sportspeople put themselves through all those beep tests and laps. The refinement of line and length in the nets is all well and good, but without the fitness to back it up, the body will refuse to do what you tell it to do.

On his IPL debut for Kolkata Knight Riders, his considerable frame in good shape, Hastings was putting the ball on a paisa. Good length on about a fifth stump line. The covering of grass on the pitch meant that was all he really needed to do.

Again and again, Delhi Daredevils batsmen Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair wafted aimlessly outside off as the ball fizzed past their bat. Hastings kept shaking his head. Somehow, he wasn’t catching the edge.

At the other end, Hastings’ teammate Andre Russell had picked up three wickets despite an erratic line and length. Two of them were skiers off hit-me length deliveries. Russell isn’t a line and length kind of guy: dyed mohawk, fierce good looks, massive slogs, and raw pace. He couldn’t be more different from Hastings, who is another one of these no-nonsense Aussies hardened by Shield cricket into a relentlessly effective machine. But Russell’s glitz was attracting all the luck.

Hastings turned at the top of his mark and changed his plan. The good length balls weren’t getting wickets; maybe a half-volley would. So he pitched one up, a little wide – a teaser for Nair, who was starving for a little bat on ball. Nair obligingly smacked it straight to point.

Sweat rained from Hastings’ brow again, but with a roar rather than a shake of the head. He would go on to bowl out a maiden. Later, after spinners Brad Hogg and Piyush Chawla bamboozled the rest of the Daredevils, Hastings returned to take the final wicket, earning himself a few pats on the back. He wouldn’t be man of the match, he wouldn’t be sought out by the press, but he provided the steady bookends to KKR’s bowling effort.

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