Ishan Kishan roared in national colours while Hardik Pandya produced a blistering cameo as India notched up an intimidating 211 for 4 in the first T20I against South Africa in Delhi. Ishan seemed to be struggling with early movement but the left-handed opener found his groove as the innings progressed. He went on to score 76 off 48 balls, helping India go past 100 before the first 10 overs at the Arun Jaitely Stadium. (Follow IND vs SA 1st T20I Live)
While Ishan kept the scoreboard ticking with Shreyas Iyer, who made 36, it was new captain Rishabh Pant who initiated fireworks in the slog overs. Pant hit 29 from 16 before Pandya blew up to slam an unbeaten 31 off just 12 balls.
Pandya, who led Gujarat Titans to the IPL title in maiden season, hit a flurry of boundaries including an effortless six in the last over against Anrich Nortje. Pandya, however, refused to take a single on the penultimate ball with in-form Dinesh Karthik at the non-striker’s end.
Ashish Nehra, who worked with Pandya in Gujarat Titans’ impressive IPL spell, passed a hilarious message to the Baroda all-rounder. “He should have taken a single before the last ball. It was Dinesh Karthik at the other end, not me,” quipped Nehra on Cricbuzz.
Nehra further lavished praise on the Titans captain, saying his batting pyrotechnics help him adjust to any role regardless of the format.
“Hardik Pandya is someone who can play all kinds of roles. He has got every type of batting up his sleeve. We have seen him performing in Tests and ODIs as well. With his batting ability, he can perhaps bat at any position… be it No.3 or 4 spot. He was captain for Gujarat and contributed with the ball as well. It was a different role. Before that, he wasn’t bowling much and was batting down the order. He is back in his old role tonight… but he has got the ability to pull off any role with ease,” Nehra further added.
Earlier, head coach Rahul Dravid had also lauded Pandya for a stellar run with his home IPL franchise. Pandya, who struggled with a back and was dropped from the team after the team’s disappointing group-stage exit from the T20 World Cup last year, returned to competitive cricket with the just-concluded IPL.
“It is really pleasing to have him back. Hardik at his best is a fantastic cricketer with both bat and ball. He’s been very successful in white-ball cricket and has shown some really good form in this IPL as well,” Dravid said at a press conference before the series opener.
“His leadership was very impressive in the IPL and he performed well. You don’t have to be designated as a leader to be part of the leadership group.”