On a day of fickle weather and bitter ironies, Ishan Kishan’s knock was an ode to poetic justice as he made hay when the sun shone little.
After India’s vaunted top-order was blown away by a routine Pakistani pace bowling masterclass and the middle-order’s underbelly exposed inside the first 15 overs, Kishan, batting for the first time as low as No. 5, had his task cut out.
It is not often that a batter coming off three consecutive half-centuries and the fastest double-hundred a few months ago is subjected to the scrutiny Kishan was faced with. And yet, here he was, filling in for KL Rahul, batting for his place, with a world-class pace trio breathing down his neck.
Kishan in the middle-order had been written off by most as a déjà vu disaster. And the 25-year-old had already witnessed from the dugout what seemed like a grim highlights reel unfolding.
Shaheen Afridi had just swung one in late to breach Rohit Sharma’s defence after the first rain break. Virat Kohli was castled trying to carve late off the left-armer’s following over. And just when Shreyas Iyer seemed to resuscitate India with a couple of crisp boundaries, Haris Rauf dug deep into his back pages, pitched it short and the batter pulled straight into the hands of midwicket.
Kishan’s defence against the moving ball has been his kryptonite and most would have believed this was a disaster waiting to happen as he walked out.
It wasn’t going to be smooth sailing by any means, or the perfect redemption arc, and Shubman Gill’s 21-ball ordeal for six runs at that moment pointed as much.
Naseem Shah tested Kishan by bringing the ball back into him and even managed to induce an inside edge off a rank full toss. But fate sometimes smiles upon the embattled and the heavens opened for the second time in less than 12 overs.
After the rain break, Kishan uppercut a Haris Rauf bouncer over third-man for six. The Indian section of the crowd found its voice, but as has always been the case with Kishan, success came tempered with suspicion, of temperament, approach and all the commotion about the match situation.
But bookended by this six and his second, and last, in the 33rd over off Mohammad Nawaz, Kishan played a coming-of-age innings. He found his feet by duly dispatching two full tosses to the boundary in leg-spinner Shadab Khan’s first over. He was beaten by the odd delivery that spun into him from the left-arm angle of Nawaz and didn’t shirk from playing some quiet overs.
But when there was width or length on offer, he kept the scoreboard ticking and reached his fifty off 54 balls. It helped that he had an enforcer against spin in Hardik Pandya at the other end and that both Shadab and Nawaz’s skillsets worked in the left-hander’s favour.
Their 138-run partnership blossomed in the 19 overs of spin that they faced together. When Rauf came back for his second spell, Kishan seemed to be struggling with cramps and fell foul of a pull shot – his most productive on any other day.
Such was the spectre of irony on the day that it didn’t evade Kishan even in his departure. And it clung on to the atmosphere late into the night, as Pakistan’s chase could never get underway even though the rain never came pelting down. And probably, it lives on. Kishan remains a stopgap in the middle-order, a reserve wicketkeeper and backup opener after playing, arguably, the innings of his life.
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