We might have seen many IPL and T20I hundreds scored by various players across different leagues, but the one by Rising Pune Supergiant’s Ben Stokes against Gujarat Lions will stay right up there with the best, considering the context of the game and his own mediocre batting performance until that game.
Having won 5 out of their last 6 games, RPS were in a spot of bother against GL after Pradeep Sangwan and Basil Thampi dismissed Rahane, Smith, and Tiwary, with the total a paltry 10 runs in 1.3 overs.
Chasing 162 to win, Stokes came in at No. 5, steadied the ship, scored a scintillating century (103* off 63) and single-handedly took his team to a five-wicket victory with a ball to spare.
Here we have a look at five things that helped the Englishman produce that breathtaking knock.
#1 A much-needed break
Having been out of the side for a couple of games due to an injury to his right shoulder, Stokes had come back fresh and raring to go for yesterday’s clash. With captain Steve Smith showing faith in him after leaving out Lockie Ferguson – who was the Man of the Match in the previous game, Stokes performed to the best of his abilities.
The Rs. 14.5 crore price tag baggage, which he had been carrying from the start of this IPL season, did hamper his performance, especially in the batting department. Even during the post-match presentation, he affirmed that the niggle actually helped him take some time off the game and have a breather.
A break from the intense proceedings helped Stokes get out of his lean patch with the bat, and has helped him find his batting touch.
#2 Timing rather than brute force
Stokes’ century had everything beautiful about watching left-handed batting – elegance and the characteristic cover drive of a southpaw. There have been times when Stokes has tried to hit his way out of trouble and go hell for leather in this IPL.
But on this occasion, he played some of the most conventional cricketing shots, thus reducing the risk early on in his innings. He took his time initially, getting to a run a ball 12 with a couple of boundaries.
He hit 39 of his 103 runs in the ‘V’ behind the bowler, straight down the ground, with a straight bat. Even after getting his eye in, he did manage to thump the ball to all parts but was heavily reliant on timing the ball to the empty regions to rotate the strike efficiently.
#3 Battle vs leg spin
The battle of a leg spinner or a left arm orthodox against a left-hander is generally won by the batsman, who usually has the mid-wicket region to slog the ball with the spin. Stokes, though, has had a few problems facing leg spin in recent times, most notably against Yuzvendra Chahal and Rashid Khan.
Even yesterday, he was struggling to pick the youngster Ankit Soni, who made his IPL debut the previous game. He picked the googly well but was in doubt while playing the ball that slides on from the front of the hand, expecting it to turn inside whereas the ball simply skidded through. However, he did not throw his wicket away mid-innings.
Stokes was happy to see him off the attack without further damage. The leg-spinner returned with figures of 4-0-16-0, with Stokes managing to score 7 off 10 balls at a strike rate of just 70.
#4 Cool as a cucumber
Having arrived at the crease at 10/3 in 1.3 overs, the 4th earliest time in all T20 cricket, Stokes played his way through a couple of overs, trying to rebuild from his team’s early losses. But after that horrible mix-up between him and Tripathi, he could have easily lost his concentration and the thought of getting an in-form batsman out could well have affected his batting.
He needed to be as calm and collected as possible. The presence of MS Dhoni at the other end might have helped. He, alongside the former Indian captain, started the repair work by stitching together a partnership of 76 runs in 10.4 overs. After Dhoni fell with the score 118/5 in 16.1 overs, it was up to him to finish the innings.
The Englishman held his nerve, backed himself, took the game right into the 19th over, and alongside Dan Christian, scripted one of the best run chases in IPL 2017, after the miserable start that RPS had.
#5 Picking his bowlers
The most important part of a run chase is to know your scoring options, when to attack and defend, when to force the ball into the gaps and when to take the added risk. Only then you may come out as a winner, and Stokes did all of those perfectly. He scored at a strike rate of 250 against Jadeja, clearing the mid-wicket boundaries and going with the spin.
He saw off Soni, and whenever the required run rate crept, he targeted Dwayne Smith and Basil Thampi to keep the opposition in check.
RPS were again in a spot of bother when Dhoni fell, and the equation was 44 off 23. The required run rate soared again and finally, in the penultimate over, requiring 25 to win, he targeted Thampi and got 17 off his over. In total, he scored 29 off the 15 balls that Thampi had bowled to him and the calculated risk did come off.
The final over was a cake walk as Dan Christian finished it with a six with a ball to spare and RPS won the close match.