The Number Three Of The True Vocation Of Manish Pandey? > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Is number three the true calling for Manish Pandey?

"It was a terrific knock, it will be great for the team if Manish can continue in this way" - Shakib

Manish Pandey had a barren start to the current IPL season. He struggled to accumulate useful scores and looked bereft of confidence. A far cry from the confident cricketer striding out to the middle and putting up consistent performances in domestic cricket.

Highly-rated in the domestic circles, it wasn't until Manish joined the Kolkata Knight Riders that he really started producing the goods on a consistent basis in the IPL. He was backed by Gautam Gambhir to bat at three and he delivered consistently as the franchise won their second IPL title in 2014. It seemed that Manish had come of age. More recognition came his way as he was selected to play for the national side and was named the captain of his state team, Karnataka.

Unfortunately, the 29-year-old soon hit a roadblock. A hot property going into the 2018 auctions, Manish was one of the major beneficiaries of being a big fish in a small pond. Proven top-order Indian batsmen are a luxury in the IPL and Manish was at the forefront of a bidding war between franchises, with Sunrisers finally forking out 11 crores to outsmart the competitors. With big money, comes bigger expectations and that perhaps weighed Manish down. The 2018 season ended with his run-tally at 284 and at a disappointing average barely crossing 25. With his strike rate too at a lowly 115, he didn't exactly measure up to his 11-crore bid.

If 2018 was thought to be an aberration, the start of 2019 was even worse. With the Sunrisers trading off Shikhar Dhawan, he was expected to shoulder the burden of batting for the Hyderabad-based team. He came into the tournament on the back of some reasonable form. With 331 runs at a strike-rate of 171.5 in the preceding Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy, the Karnataka captain was set to make a major impact on SRH's fortunes. From being the building block of the Kolkata franchise, he was now asked to be the enforcer, coming into bat during the latter half of the innings. However, what followed though was worse. Scores of 8*, 1, 10, 16 and 19 - all coming at a scoring rate of less than 100 and all at number 5 or below meant the long rope was cut short. By the time the Sunrisers faced the Delhi Capitals - at the exact half-way stage of the tournament, Manish found himself warming the benches.

It needed some luck for the Karnataka batsman to force his way back into the playing XI and the unfortunate demise of Kane Williamson's grandmother got Manish that opening. More importantly, he was also given the chance to bat at number 3 - the position at which he made a name for himself while playing for Kolkata. Still, the task lying ahead of him wasn't an easy one. He made a comeback alright, but he was up against Chennai Super Kings in their own den. For a normally free-stroking batsman like Manish, the slow and spinning tracks of Chepauk could well be the worst anathema of sorts. On a positive note, he came out to bat early and faced the new ball.

"I think it was a combination of both (strategy and forced change)," Shakib Al Hasan said, when prodded about Manish batting at number three. "Kane Williamson's absence forced the team management to push him to three and I thought he grabbed the chance with both hands, it was a terrific knock, it will be great for the team if he can continue in this way", he added.

There was one more key factor that went Manish's way and that was the 'surprise' change in the nature of the Chennai track. Prior to today's game, four teams came beaming with confidence, only to leave with battered and bruised egos. Today though, the conditions seemed largely batting friendly. The occasional ball stopped on the batsman and a few spun, but this wasn't the two-paced wicket that had left batsmen largely befuddled. Manish showed intent with a lofted straight drive over the bowler's head and that set his night going. Five out off his first seven scoring shots were boundaries and by the time he pinched his first single, he had already raced to 27. With the new number three off the blocks quickly, the team's fifty came inside the batting powerplay - the fastest any side reached the 50-run mark in Chennai during this season's IPL.

For once, the spinners weren't allowed to dictate terms at the MA Chidambaram stadium. After taking out Bairstow with his third ball, Harbhajan Singh went on to concede 30 runs from his next 15 balls. Ravindra Jadeja went for 33 from his four overs while Imran Tahir was even more expensive, giving away 38 from his quota of overs. In short, the spinners were thrown off by Manish's aggression. A batsman who wasn't even expected to make the starting XI had successfully put the hosts under pressure.

The second-wicket stand with David Warner was worth 115 runs from 72 balls and for once the gun Australian batsman had to play the second fiddle. It was a partnership which was dominated by the right-hander. However, as SRH stalled towards the latter half, so did Manish's innings. He wasn't helped by the fact that he faced only 12 balls in the final stretch of five overs - adding 19 runs in the process. At one stage, a score of around 190 looked a certainty, but it's to the credit of the home side's bowlers that Sunrisers finished with 175; a total that became inadequate following Shane Watson's brute power during the chase. Small margins, you'd say, but these are the small margins that make or break a team's chances, especially in T20 cricket.

That failure to back up a good start with a great finish turned out to be the difference between the two teams. Watson, though, believed that credit should go to his bowlers for pulling things back. "I think that was a huge turning point in the game (last five overs of CSK's bowling). The way we closed out the innings, they could have so easily got 190.The last few overs got the momentum back in our way. Chasing 190 or even 180 would have been difficult," Watson added.

Today was a second coming for Manish and it was his chance to prove his detractors wrong. Manish's timely innings also came at a crucial juncture of SRH's campaign. With Baristow having played in his final match of the season for Sunrisers, the franchise need their Indian back-ups to steer the ship.

Sunrisers picked up Manish to be that enforcer in the middle-order, but for now his true calling comes at number three.

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