ADELAIDE: Bas de Leede will sport scars from Sunday’s Optus Stadium misadventure for the rest of his life, but just a day later, the Netherlands cricketer can afford a sheepish grin as he waits to board his flight at Perth airport.
The injury below his right eye, courtesy Pakistan pacer Haris Rauf, looks even more ghastly up close. Bas can hardly see through the eye yet, but his hands instinctively re-enact the pull shot which failed him. “I tried to pull, but the ball was too fast. The pitch was too pacy,” he says.
It was, in fact, a nightmare of an over. Imagine the sixth over of Netherlands’ innings. De Leede fronts up to Rauf only to be greeted by a 147kph scorcher angling in. The batter somehow parries it off. The second ball is too fast to work off the pads and hits him on the body. Third ball, beaten by pace. Fourth ball, fuller and played well. The fifth ball rears up like a Balrog from the deep, and as a foolhardy De Leede attempts the pull shot, he gets hit on the grille just below the right eye by a 142kph missile.
There is a deep cut which immediately starts to bleed. The batter looks dazed and retires hurt.
Netherlands’ Bas de Leede after he was hit on the face while batting against Pakistan in Perth. (AP Photo)
“I got four stitches. I got off lightly. I didn’t feel I had a concussion and they asked me a few questions, but I started feeling very nauseous, so I was asked not to go out again,” de Leede says.
As he gingerly takes the first seat on the plane, De Leede is still thinking about how he could have played that shot well. He should instead be thinking how lucky he is.
Later in the day, India’s cricketers, more adept at playing fiery pace, would not look like getting injured but nonetheless struggled to put away South Africa’s pace troika, with most of them perishing to the horizontal bat shot.
All except Suryakumar Yadav, of course, who found innovative ways to counter-attack.
India’s match, the second on the day, was effectively over when Lungi Ngidi ran through the top order to leave Rohit Sharma‘s men reeling at 49/5 by the ninth over. But did it make for some exciting watching! Parnell bowling a maiden to KL Rahul first up. A tentative Rohit pushing and poking at three balls from Rabada before unfurling a goosebumps-inducing hook shot which went for six. A dropped caught-and-bowled chance just two balls later! Just the first two overs provided more excitement than a series of bilateral T20Is on formulaic 240-plus belters.
Rohit, Kohli, Pandya all fell to the bounce, trying to hook but failing to keep it down. Only Suryakumar strode out like a pirate with a cutlass, ready to tame the high seas. He flashed! He nonchalantly flicked a 143kph delivery from Nortje behind square for six! When Ngidi went wide of off stump, he stroked it over fine leg! Soon came a 50 off 30 balls. . . probably the finest of Suryakumar’s nascent career.
It didn’t result in an India win but stole the spotlight away for long enough from the pacers to make for a memorable contest. Arshdeep’s electric swingers shifted the momentum back to the bowlers before David Miller and Aiden Markram tilted the scales again.
Asked what the key was to surviving on this pitch, Markram simply said, “A bit of luck. We expected those lengths. We expected the bounce. But it can still make for batters looking silly. Just because of the nature of the bounce, the pull and hook shot will be tough to play.”
But you would have had to play it anyway, because it’s T20. And prayed your eyes and reflexes and bat swing were all on point, because for a short while the pace bowler was king of all he surveyed. Just ask Bas de Leede.