The most conspicuous feature of Prithvi Shaw’s batting is the nonchalance he exudes at the crease. Full of poise, his movements are minimal and precise, his stolid expressions masking, to an extent, his state of mind. Six days after his record-breaking 379 in Guwahati, Shaw continued in the same vein at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi, smashing boundaries at will – especially through cover and third man – in the first hour of the day’s play against Delhi.
The carnage began in the first over, with Shaw punching the ball through extra cover for a boundary off Harshit Rana. He struck three boundaries in Harshit’s next over, all off good-length or short-of-a-length deliveries. By the sixth over, he was already on 32, having struck seven boundaries – six in the arc between point and cover. The visual treat continued: Shaw tucked one off his hips, flicked one off his legs, and leaned into a drive off a good-length delivery from Pranshu Vijayran in what was perhaps the shot of the day.
There was swing on offer. To be sure, Delhi’s bowlers could have bowled better lengths in that first hour to make the best use of the swing, but given what transpired later, it seems Shaw made them look more benign than they were. Eventually, it was swing that did him in: he failed to pick an in-ducker and lost his wicket to it after being struck on the pads. Umpire S. Ravi raised his finger even though it appeared – not on first impression, admittedly – that the ball would go over the stumps. Shaw greeted the verdict with disbelief, clutching his waist with his right hand while staring at the umpire, and stood rooted in his crease for a long time before trudging off.
It was a big moment in the game, undoubtedly the session’s turning point. For what followed was carnage with the ball. Shaw’s dismissal revealed the difficulty that the pitch and the overall conditions posed for batters, even as the bowlers – especially Vijayran – decided to pitch the ball slightly fuller. Mumbai’s famed top order tumbled; Musheer Khan, Armaan Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane departing cheaply. The tables had turned: Sarfaraz Khan and Shams Mulani had to dig deep to rescue their team.
This is what Vijayran had to say about what transpired during the first hour of the day: “Prithvi Shaw attacks the bowling when he bats. He puts the bowlers under pressure by attacking even good deliveries. Hence, his wicket delivery could be any delivery. We erred a little by bowling short-of-a-length to him outside the off-stump. Divij Mehra had settled in when he bowled what was a good delivery to Prithvi to get him out. By the time the second wicket fell, our nerves had settled and we were bowling in good areas, getting the ball to move around.”