Kerala Knights’ hopes of reaching the qualifiers may have gone up in smoke, but their final flourish in the T10 League will never be forgotten by the iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Playing in only his second match in the second edition of the tournament, Kerala Knights’ English wicketkeeper batsman Jonny Bairstow came up with a breathtaking exhibition of strokeplay, writing his name in the record books.
Bairstow’s stunning 84 off 24 balls (six fours and eight sixes) – the highest individual score of the tournament – brought the crowd to their feet as he helped the Knights beat Bengal Tigers by seven wickets.
Chasing 124, the Knights reached home in just 8.4 overs and it was Bairstow that provided the fireworks for a team that lost Paul Stirling and Eoin Morgan in the second over.
Chris Gayle (19, 10 balls, 2 fours and one six) then failed to convert his start, but Bairstow just walked out and destroyed the Tigers morale with some of the cleanest hits you can see in limited overs cricket.
The 29-year-old hit eight sixes – with three in as many balls – as the defending champions beat Bengal Tigers with eight balls remaining.
He batted at number four in a team led by Eoin Morgan, who was out first ball.
The previous highest T10 League score was 74 made by Afghanistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad last week.
For a man who just came from Sri Lanka after having played a patient knock of 110 off 186 balls in the third Test, Bairstow changed gears effortlessly as though he had never been away from white-ball cricket. “It’s a great feeling. I am just coming back from Sri Lanka, so I was just enjoying out there. That’s the main thing,” he told reporters at the post-match press conference.
“It was important to have the smile on the face and, you know, I just had an amazing time with the bat today (Friday). That’s why we play the game.”
Bairstow said it was all about getting the right momentum from the start especially when you lose early wickets in a chase.
“When you need 124 off 10 overs, there’s not much you can do really. You have to try to hit as many sixes, as many fours as possible because when you need 13-14 in an over, it’s tough,” he said.