About five years ago, in Mohali, India was stunned by a late batting assault from Australia’s James Faulkner to go down in a contest that had seemed India’s for the taking — it had put up 303 in 50 overs. Faulker had gone berserk at the death, hitting Ishant Sharma, the fast bowler, for four sixes in five deliveries to turn the contest around and eventually, take his team home in the final over.
Faulkner has been known to function as a finisher with the bat. On Sunday, Ashton Turner, another known finisher, repeated the narrative. Like Faulkner, Turner struck six sixes in his rapid knock, ending with an unbeaten 84.
He played the regular attacking strokes well — the slog-sweep, the lofted hit straight down the ground, and the pull, to collect his fours and sixes, and even displayed finesse with a soft cut to find the gap between deep point and third-man. On one occasion, he pulled out his ramp shot — reminiscent of Zimbabwe’s Douglas Marillier — for six.
All of these shots have been used well in the Big Bash League, where he has made his reputation as a finisher in the last two seasons. Playing for Perth Scorchers, Turner displayed his prowess by regularly providing fireworks with the bat. In January, 2019, he was prolific — at one point, he had scores of 60 not out, 47, 43 and 60, in four consecutive matches.
After suffering a blip, he went on the rampage once again in the penultimate game of the season. His knock of 69 (42b, 7X4, 3X6) overshadowed the knock of his more recognised counterpart Glenn Maxwell, who hit a valiant knock of 61 in Melbourne Stars’ 21-run defeat. He innings was full of slogs towards midwicket and straight behind the bowler — off seamers as well as spinners.
But it’s not just his power-hitting that is of value. Justin Langer, the Australia head coach, who shepherds Scorchers in the BBL, too, has praised his running between the wickets as well, and labelled him as a “great athlete.”
A “great athlete” who is slowly coming into his own in a domestic career — and now, perhaps, international — that began in the fall of 2013. It was in the 2016-17 season when he got noticed, rewarded for his domestic performances with a Twenty20 International cap.
However, of late, he has made a niche for himself as a batsman more than an off-spinner. And with such seasoning behind him, found himself perhaps in an ideal scenario batting under the pressure of a run-chase in Mohali.
With dew also having set in, the ball was slippery and getting difficult for the bowlers to grip. It was coming on to the bat nicely, too. He started off with a gentle straight drive off Kuldeep Yadav, the left-arm chinaman bowler, and then opened up, playing the slog-sweep to midwicket, for four, and a slog down the ground, for six.
He repeated the last stroke against Yuzvendra Chahal.
Later, off the fast bowlers, he went on a rampage. Length balls helped, too. He used the crease well — shuffling from leg-stump to off-stump and going deep in his crease just before the delivery is bowled — to upset the bowlers’ rhythm. Sixty two runs were required when Bhuvneshwar Kumar came on to bowl the 45th over, and after it, the contest had decisively tilted in favour of Australia.
He hit Bhuvneshwar for two sixes and a four — towards long-on, midwicket, and square leg, and in the next over, collected a six and a four off Jasprit Bumrah — the latest six was off the ramp shot. In the 47th over, he punished Bhuvneshwar again, hitting a four and a six, both to leg, virtually finishing the contest.
It was clear he was having fun in the middle. He also admitted it later, saying, “Batting is a lot of fun.” The expectant crowd had been stunned by an unknown marauder, dispersing within minutes of the conclusion of the contest.
A surprise it might have been, but not for the Australian team and for Turner himself. At the top of his game, he was just displaying his wares to a different audience.
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