India's World Cup XI will have Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni - no shortage of six-hitters there. But they usually take a bit of time before going big. Hardik Pandya is different. And therefore extra dangerous.
He has played 41 innings in the IPL since 2016. And fourteen of those have included a six within the first five balls. Imagine that. He barely goes three innings without starting one with a six.
Against Kolkata Knight Riders, he made his second ball disappear over the bowlers head. Two others were helicoptered over deep midwicket. When he got to his fifty off only 17 balls - the fastest of the year - he had seven sixes. That's one every two balls or so.
Hardik came in to bat with the required rate more than 15. And instead of fearing it, or being bogged down by it, he just picked up his bat and dealt with it. #LikeABoss. When he finally fell for 91 off 34, he had struck a six every 3.7 balls.
The Dre Russ dilemma
It is easy to say, 'you should send a player like Andre Russell early' to give him as many balls as possible. But more often than not, such a plan is associated with a risk. When you come in early, there is a tendency to think that you have more balls to play and you don't try to hit from ball one, while in the last three or four overs, you have single-minded focus to only hit the ball. Also the opposition has more bowlers to aim at you.
On Sunday, in spite of Russell coming in at the 10th over, he scored just 29 runs from the first 21 balls he faced. Mumbai Indians deserve credit for that, switching between plan A (short and at the body) and plan B (hiding the ball outside off with point and long-off back) so beautifully that even the IPL's biggest hitter couldn't line them up. Russell v Hardik was, at one point, one run off six balls.
The Dre Russ promise
There were only four overs left. Two of those would be bowled by Jasprit Bumrah. One of them by Lasith Malinga. Mumbai would've felt like they'd done enough to negate the Russell threat. But by now, the batsman knew what he was up against. And those outside-off-stump balls started going for six over cover. Bumrah watched one thunder into the stands - after taking all the pace off the ball. Russell hit that six on one foot. One foot because the ball had thrown his balance off. And it should have thrown his power off too. And yet...
The worst was to come. Malinga was given the last over. He started it with a half-volley that vanished over midwicket. Okay, that was a bad ball and it deserved what it got. What happened when Malinga bowled to his field - switching his line wide outside off? Well, Russell hammered it so hard it hit the boundary before deep point and wide long-off could move.
Twenty runs came off that over to bring up the season's highest total (232). And Russell, who was on 29 at the end of 16 overs, finished with 80* off 40 balls. He pwned Mumbai.
The Gill standard
He's young. He's got so much time to play the ball. He's finished games off with sixes. Shubman Gill is already an IPL sweetheart. If things go according to plan, he'll be a massive player for India. Because, in addition to the skill and the temperament to succeed at the highest level, he seems to hit all round the park. Take this innings of 76. He had four regions that he peppered: long-off (16) and cover (13) on the off side and long-on (18) and behind square leg (12) on the leg side. No bias. Just class.
The slower one no more
Chris Lynn is T20 royalty... but that crown has recently been slipping.
He actually came into this game as one of the worst opening batsmen this season. Under condition of at least 50 balls faced, only Ambati Rayudu (60) and Faf du Plessis (110) had poorer strike rates than his 128.
Then came this must-win game. And the assault. The sheer Lynnsanity.
A notable point of his third-fastest fifty in the IPL was his shot selection against spin. Krunal Pandya bowls a style that has previously contained the Australian. Since 2015, Lynn has hit left-arm spin at a strike rate of 104 and has fallen to it 14 times in 55 T20 innings. Here though, he walloped it for 22 off 12 balls. Even after Krunal tried to contain him by spearing it into his pads.
Lynn's mantra was simple. He backed away and lifted the bowler over extra cover. There were no slogs. Just a batsman who understood a shortcoming and overcame it. Extra points for the fact the solution was risk-free.
Sunil Narine is a monster hitter of spin bowling (strike rate 223 this year). With him dropping down the order, Mumbai would've fancied controlling the game by taking pace off the ball. Lynn made sure they couldn't.
With inputs from Gaurav Sundararaman, Shiva Jayaraman and Srinath Sripath