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That fantastic last over! That fantastic feeling! Slam, Swat, Swish from Ish Sodhi – Kiwi extraordinary

August 22, 2012

Geroge Binoy, in ESPNcricinfo, where th e title runs “‘We all dog-piled onto Ish’ – Cam Fletcher” … after a 50th over which went 6-1-1-6-2-4

New Zealand’s No. 8, walked out to bat with his team needing 26 off 15 balls to win the quarter-final against a formidable West Indian pace attack at Endeavour Park. As he went in, Sodhi says his coach Matt Horne gave him a wink; he winked back, and doesn’t really remember too much after that. “Yeah. Especially because we lost Cam Fletcher, who was in,” said Sodhi, when asked if he felt that 18 runs off the last over might be too many to get. “He was on 49 and after that I felt a little bit of pressure, but when it came down to the last over it was do-or-die really. Nothing else really crossed my mind.”

Chasing 238, the equation had come down to New Zealand requiring 22 runs off the last two overs. Ronsford Beaton, one of the best bowlers of the World cup so far, was bowling the 49th. He conceded only four runs off the first five balls, and had the well-set Cam Fletcher caught off the sixth.

Before this match, Sodhi had scored nine runs in two innings in the World Cup. He hit the first ball off the last over, bowled by allrounder Justin Greaves, for four but New Zealand managed only two off the next two balls, leaving them 12 to get off the last three.

The first of those went for six over square leg. “We were all sitting on the sidelines and we were backing him [Sodhi] a lot,” said Fletcher, who hadn’t bothered taking off his pads. “The first he got, it was probably a full ball around middle or leg stump, he [Greaves] was trying to bowl a yorker and he [Sodhi] just picked it up off his legs. It’s a massive boundary out there and he cleared it, over deep square leg and into one of the tents that was out the back.”

Sodhi managed two off the penultimate delivery, and New Zealand needed a boundary of the last one to enter the semi-finals. He sent it to the midwicket boundary. “Originally I was trying to hit it over cover and I opened up the front leg, but he [Greaves] bowled a low full toss on my legs and I hit it over midwicket. I had the front leg open, he bowled straight and I took advantage of that.

“Until about half way the ball was in the air, I didn’t really look because I saw the fielder hadn’t given up on it. I don’t remember anything from then, I just went out and celebrated real big and saw the team rushing at me. It was only a while ago but I still can’t believe that it actually happened.”

Sodhi’s cameo, 22 off 10 balls, had helped New Zealand pull off the highest successful chase of this Under-19 World Cup, and against perhaps the best bowling attack on show in Queensland.

“When I got out I was devastated, said Fletcher. “But after the first hit that Ish hit for the six, that was amazing. We were just sitting back in our seats and sure we could actually do this. When he hit those runs, everyone just ran onto the field. We all dog-piled onto Ish, everyone was on there. It’s probably the best game everyone in our side has ever played in; I know for me certainly it was. It was probably cricket wise, the greatest experience of my life.”

Fletcher himself had played an important role in setting up the finish for Sodhi. After Ben Horne had steered New Zealand through the first half of the innings, Robert O’Donnell and Fletcher took over at 104 for 4 and paced the chase. They were slow to begin with – West Indies’ bowling was that good – but didn’t let a rising asking-rate fluster them too much. When O’Donnell was dismissed in the 42nd over, New Zealand needed 81 off 49 balls. The fifth-wicket partnership of 53 runs had taken 103 balls.

“It was really difficult,” said Fletcher about batting against the West Indies’ quicks. “We played them in a warm-up game earlier and we knew they had firepower in their bowling attack. Early on they bowled quick, short and they were trying to scare us. And to be fair they probably did that. Their bowling attack is superb and they are probably the ones to really look out for in terms of the firepower and bounce and speed that they have. They are an aggressive unit.

“But Ben Horne coped with that very well and he hit a couple of good balls out of the middle. He got them to bowl in different areas, which was awesome. Robert O’Donnell, he batted well today as well. It just made it easier for us towards the end just to be able to change their lengths up.”

When O’Donnell was dismissed, Connor Neyens joined Fletcher and didn’t take long to attack West Indies. New Zealand needed 66 runs off the last six overs and they got 15 and 14 off the first two of those. “We were nervous about it. We got ourselves stuck a little bit through the middle period,” said Fletcher. “Against Australia, we played a quad series earlier in the year and we fought back. We fell four runs short with 100 off the last 10 overs, so we knew we could do it.”

Neyens and Fletcher took New Zealand closer but were dismissed in successive overs, leaving the stage for Sodhi, who stunned a West Indian side that had won their group matches with powerful performances.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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