Once upon a time, Ashton Turner was a bits-and-pieces player: he could bat a bit, bowl a bit, and his shoulder was always creaky. He was part of the squad that reached the final of the 2012 Under-19 World Cup in Australia. He was more known for his offspin than batting then, and finished as Australia's top wicket-taker in the tournament, with 11 wickets in six matches at an average of 16.18 and economy rate of 4.09.
Then, he became Perth Scorchers' finisher - and the best finisher in the Big Bash League. Then, he worked on his fitness and entered himself into the IPL auction for the first time. After being picked up by Rajasthan Royals in the dying stages of the 2019 auction for his base price of INR 50 lakhs (USD 70,000), he told the West Australian: "I have no idea why they picked me. To wake up to the news that I was going to Rajasthan was really exciting and I can't wait to get over there."
Turner showed why he got an IPL gig and introduced himself to India. Ashton Turner: the finisher. He is highly rated by Justin Langer, who has worked with him both at the Scorchers and Western Australia. Ricky Ponting identified him as a future all-format Australia player last year. And ahead of Australia's ODI series opener against India, his captain Aaron Finch singled him out as the "most exciting" talent in the squad.
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That's one heck of a CV, but India had never heard of Turner until Sunday night. Until he cracked 84 off 43 balls in a breathtaking display of clean striking. Until he pulled off a chase of 359 - Australia's biggest in ODIs.
Believe it or not, Turner might not have played this game had Marcus Stoinis not broken his thumb. He flickered briefly on his one-day international debut in Hyderabad but then missed out for two games running, before firing like he has been doing for the Scorchers in Mohali.
When he walked out to bat in only his second ODI, Australia had just lost Glenn Maxwell and they needed 130 off 83 balls. A nerveless Turner went mad, but there was a method to it: the one that made him the Scorchers' gun player. He doesn't slog the ball and instead relies on a stable base to launch the ball in the 'V'. Four of his seven sixes here came down the ground and hushed the Sunday crowd.
Turner has also a reputation of being an outstanding runner between the wickets - a trait that impressed Langer so much that he likened him to Michael Hussey and called for his inclusion in Australia's ODI squad after Mitchell Marsh fell sick. Turner's innings in Mohali contained six hard-run twos, which ramped up the pressure on the outfielders.
Sure, the dew was setting in, but Kuldeep Yadav is among the best limited-overs spinners going around. Turner picked his wrong'un like a boss and hoisted it straight over his head at the start of the 41st over.
"After the thrilling finish, a few kids mistook Handscomb for Turner and asked him to pose for selfies"
Yuzvendra Chahal then dangled one up wide of off - he had dismissed Peter Handscomb for 117 in similar fashion - but Turner generated enough power to clear long-on, despite not getting to the pitch of the ball. Turner was then reprieved on 38 when Rishabh Pant missed a stumping chance in the 44th over. The Mohali crowd went "Dhoni! Dhoni! Dhoni!" and at the end of a rollercoaster ride they found a new finisher (even if they would have preferred not to).
Australia needed 62 off 36 balls and new finisher was up against one of the finest death-bowling pairs: Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. Bhuvneshwar marginally missed his lengths, and Turner's acceleration was like a volcano blowing its lid.
Bhuvneshwar aimed a yorker, but it came out as a low full-toss, which is still a hard-to-hit delivery. Turner brought his bottom hand into play and shovelled over wide long-on for six. Bhuvneshwar then turned to his go-to delivery: the knuckle ball. But, he dropped it short and Turner read it and swatted it away like a fly to the square-leg boundary. He barely acknowledged his maiden ODI half-century. He knew the job wasn't done yet.
Turner then had two more lives in Bhuvneshwar's next over, but the plan was simple: just hold your shape and hit the ball straight. All told, Turner took Bhuvneshwar for 36 off 12 balls. Bumrah wasn't spared either as Turner jumped across off and scooped him for six, AB de Villiers-style. Job nearly done.
Alex Carey holed out with Australia two away from victory, but Turner coolly finished it off with a push towards wide long-on - the region that he owned - with 13 balls to spare. There were no over-the-top celebrations. Just a gentle tap of the glove with Jhye Richardson and a warm hug from Finch.
The series was on the line, he wasn't initially slated to play, but Turner found a way to absorb all the pressure and complete the highest successful ODI chase against India.
After the thrilling finish, a few kids mistook Handscomb for Turner and asked him to pose for selfies. You had better get acquainted with Turner, you'll see a lot of this finisher soon.