14th May 2010, St. Lucia, Australia find themselves staring down into the abyss against Pakistan. The Aussies, who have dominated the noughties as a white-ball outfit, are starting to feel the pinch in the shortest format. They are then reduced to 105-5, with most of their top batters back in the shed.
A certain Saeed Ajmal is wreaking havoc – much like he has done throughout the 2010 T20 World Cup, with able allies in Abdur Rehman, Mohammad Amir and Shahid Afridi.
At that very juncture, Pakistan see a left-handed batter walking to the crease – a left-handed batter who goes by the name of Michael Hussey and one who, if cricketing word of mouth is to be believed, is prone to conjuring the odd miracle.
He takes guard, surveys the debris that has preceded his arrival and takes in a deep breath. Not just a breath to calm himself but a breath to set himself up for what seems a longer haul than he would’ve imagined. And then…he explodes.
Pakistan’s bowlers are now running for cover. Ajmal is trying to understand why he took up bowling in the first place. Amir wonders if he would have been better off bowling his entire quota in the powerplay. Shahid Afridi, meanwhile, is busy deciphering how steep a fall from grace any sporting outfit can possibly endure.
Hussey smashes an unbeaten 60-run knock – off only 24 balls. He rips into Ajmal in the process, making Pakistan question how they were deemed the indomitable force before the game. And, of course, forcing billions of cricket fans to collectively gape in awe because, well, it was so ahead of the era he batted in.
This is the miracle that people had been talking about all along. Now, it was on display for eleven hapless Pakistan cricketers on the field and for millions back home.
Such was the greatness of the knock that countless fans felt it would never be replicated. Not because Hussey no longer plays cricket but because such outings happen once every couple of decades. Fair to say, then, that a cricketer coming close to evoking such comparisons would’ve done something extraordinary.
Cut to 2021. Thousands of miles away, in a distant land and in a landscape vastly different than it was in 2010, something extraordinary did happen.
A burly left-handed batter aka Matthew Wade, who would most definitely have rejoiced at Hussey’s heroics, was busy scripting his own fairy tale. Not too distinctly dissimilar from that sensational evening in St. Lucia. But contrasting enough to leave his own stamp on history.
Much like Hussey, Wade walked into a cauldron of pressure for Australia. The Aussies had lost a string of wickets and were finding new ways of getting dismissed against Shadab Khan.
Glenn Maxwell cue-ended a reverse swat. Mitchell Marsh picked the wrong delivery to slog sweep. Steve Smith had an uncharacteristic swipe across the line. David Warner walked off despite not nicking through to Mohammad Rizwan, for goodness’ sake.
Matthew Wade weathered the storm magnificently
Wade, though, didn’t flinch even as Australia threatened to slip deeper into the quicksand. At the time, it felt that the wicket-keeper might not be able to drag Australia to victory. Yet, as the overs progressed, it became increasingly clear that Wade was embodying a lion waiting for the ideal prey.
Until the 14th over, Wade didn’t play a shot in anger. With each nudged single, Australia felt a little uneasy. The required run rate didn’t help matters either. Wade, however, had it all planned out in his head – something his captain Aaron Finch also seemed confident about.
Then, in the 19th over, it all came together quite beautifully. While Wade was accorded a lifeline, there weren’t any other missteps for Pakistan to capitalize on.
Before the 4th ball of the over, Shaheen Shah Afridi bowled an assortment of back-of-a-length deliveries. Some were cutters, while others were bowled at a searing pace. The law of averages then stipulated that Shaheen would bowl full at some stage. Wade gambled. Wade came up trumps.
Wade initially brought out the scoop and nailed it to perfection. Remember, that particular ball was bowled at 148 km/hr. It probably cannoned into the fine leg fence a lot quicker.
Shell-shocked by Wade’s audacity, Shaheen then tried to revert to the back-of-a-length ball. He erred on the fuller side this time and was clubbed over cow corner.
Afridi’s immediate reaction, which was a combination of rolling his eyes and brooding over how this match had gone so wrong so suddenly, made it pristinely clear that Wade had won the battle. A ball later, when Shaheen attempted the yorker, Wade won the war, courtesy of another expertly executed lap shot.
All those years ago in St. Lucia, Hussey also waited to seize his moment. The fact that he batted at No. 7 like Wade meant that neither could afford a careless shot. Moreover, neither could take the risk of trying something too elaborate too early, only to rue their mistake at the end.
While Hussey feasted on Ajmal, who was largely considered Pakistan’s premier bowler at the 2010 T20 World Cup, Wade lined up Shaheen. Eerily enough, both hit three sixes in what proved to be the final over of the game. More importantly, both launched Australia into a T20 World Cup final.
From a personal standpoint, this innings would’ve meant a lot to Wade, considering quite a few people had been clamoring for Josh Inglis to be included in the eleven. Some even said that Wade was most suitable at the top and that he would be a liability at the death.
Now, though, it seems that Wade has cast those doubts aside rather emphatically. And he has done so while channelizing his inner finisher – a finisher who, much like Hussey, never gives up and invariably stumbles upon a method to stun Pakistan. In semi-final games, no less.
Over the years, the T20 World Cup theater has rolled out countless reels – each seemingly better than the other and significantly different too. Just a day ago, Daryl Mitchell completed a remarkable turnaround from a “neither here, nor there” all-rounder to a bona-fide match-winner at the top of the order.
Yet, when the clock is turned back and an old narrative, which was thought to be obsolete, is relived again, something special happens – a feeling that isn’t quantifiable and makes everything feel as if it was meant to be this way, all this while.
For those with more of a social media (read memes) inclination, Hussey and Wade could even be dressed in their Spider-Man avatars, pointing to each other and chuckling that both their magical knocks are incredibly similar.
Has Wade transcended eras and timelines then? Maybe. Just maybe.