Hendricks halted eight runs from splendid isolation

“We find ways to win.” – David Miller

Telford Vice / Catania, Sicily

LOOKS like a fashion model. Happily, doesn’t seem to know it. Exceedingly polite. Even tempered almost to an annoying degree. Able to reel off one half-century after another, bada bing, bada boom, apparently while expending next to no effort. What’s not to like about Reeza Hendricks?

Everything, if you’ve bowled to him in the past 10 days. That fate has befallen 14 England and Ireland players in the five T20Is their teams have played against South Africa. They deserve, at the very least, a register of their attendance: Mark Adair, Moeen Ali, Curtis Campher, Sam Curran, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Richard Gleeson, Chris Jordan, Josh Little, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Adil Rashid, Reece Topley and David Willey.

Delany, Gleeson, Jordan and Moeen had the satisfaction of dismissing Hendricks. Delany did so twice. Only McBrine, Adair and Campher escaped Hurricane Hendricks having conceded fewer than a run a ball to him. He smashed Dockrell, McCarthy and Curran for more than 10 runs an over, and Dockrell for more than two runs a ball — nine off four. He made everyone who dared deliver to him look decidedly ordinary.

And, in Bristol on Friday, he came within eight runs of rising above Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle and everyone else who has swung a bat in a men’s T20I. When Hendricks scored 74 against the Irish in Bristol on Wednesday, he became the sixth player to reach 50 in four consecutive T20I innings. A hattrick of half-centuries in the format is not that special, even at this level. It’s been done 46 times, and its achievers include Virat Kohli and Martin Guptill, who have done so three times each. Only McCullum and Gayle have been there, done that four times consecutively.

Hendricks’ bid to put daylight between himself and the chasing pack ended with the first ball of the 13th over. Delany speared a straighter, quicker delivery past everything that was in its path. Except leg stump. Hendricks’ hallmarks — timing and footwork — were as they should have been, but they were no match for that delivery. It was an anticlimactic although convincing end to his attempt at achieving splendid isolation. Rather go that way than have what might have been a record-breaking six caught by a leaping lizard of a fielder on the boundary.

Hendricks will leave England — he is not in the squad for the Test series that starts at Lord’s on August 17 — having scored 296 runs off 208 balls, more than half of them in fours and sixes. It’s the last of those facts that will jar. Did he really hit that many boundaries? Yes: 31 fours and four sixes. Batters who play as well as Hendricks has on this tour can appear to score runs almost by accident; as if they’re focused on the making of their strokes more than on making their strokes count in the scorebook. It’s the difference between art and craft, and it’s a beautiful thing.

In Bristol on Friday, after Hendricks had painted his unfinished picture, its frame was being cobbled together with determination and discipline. South Africa recovered from losing Hendricks and a bristling Aiden Markram — who hammered 27 off 10 balls — in the space of three deliveries, and thus shambling to 84/5, to a total of 182/6. That was thanks largely to Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller and Dwaine Pretorius crashing 88 off 43 between them. Then Wayne Parnell, bowling with creativity and verve, claimed a career-best 5/30 as Ireland disappeared for 138 in 18.5 overs without showing much of their famed fighting qualities.

That Hendricks should stick out above the bigger names around him is the real story. While he has been batting up a storm, Quinton de Kock has scored 31 runs in the same five innings. Or not quite 10% of Hendricks’ output. That De Kock is among the finest players of his generation anywhere in the game and will doubtless regain his form only adds to the singularity of what Hendricks has done. Another measure is that, despite South Africa’s 2-0 win over Ireland, only Hendricks and Markram are among the series’ top five run-scorers.

Maybe the deeper lesson of Hendricks’ success, for the South Africans, is that they haven’t had to depend on some of the usual suspects in this rubber or indeed against England. As Miller — himself a fish out of water as a stand-in captain for the injured Temba Bavuma — said in his television interview: “We find ways to win.”

Hendricks is one of those ways. How he stays in the XI at the T20I World Cup in Australia in October and November is a question for another time and for another group of people: the selectors. His job is to ask that question, and he has. In fine style.

First published by Cricbuzz. 

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Hendricks halted eight runs from splendid isolation