Out of place, not out of sight is Evin Lewis

When Evin Lewis featured in the IPL last year, he got the gig only because Rajasthan Royals did not have the services of Jos Buttler for the second half of the tournament in the UAE. But he was quick to grab the opportunity, having entered the competition in a rich vein of form.

Just before the UAE leg, Lewis had finished as the second highest run-getter in CPL 2021, scoring 426 runs in 11 innings at an average of 47.33 and a strike rate of 163.21 in St Kitts and Nevis Patriots’ victorious campaign. Turning up for Royals in IPL 2021, he played only five matches but it was a good sample size for the IPL franchises leading up to the mega auction, with the West Indian finishing with 151 runs at a strike rate of 162.36.

Having been picked up at his base price of INR 2 Crore in the IPL auction, Lewis, who had opened in T20 cricket for most of his career, was told by the LSG management that he would have to bat in the middle order with skipper KL Rahul and Quinton de Kock occupying the top two positions. In LSG’s first match, he came one-drop but was dismissed for a nine-ball 10 against Gujarat Titans. But he quickly made amends with a match-winning contribution against Chennai Super Kings on Thursday (March 31) to help LSG secure their maiden IPL win.

Lewis only walked out to bat in the 12th over, coming in at No. 4, with Rahul and de Kock having provided the base with a 99-run opening stand in a chase of 211. But LSG quickly became 106/2 and later 139/3 in the 15th over. Lewis had already raced to 23 off 10 when the opener was dismissed. But he had to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility of seeing LSG through, which he did without breaking a sweat.

“I had this chat with him before the first game, I said: ‘Me and Quinny will be opening, you might have to bat at three. When spinners are bowling I think you’ll be really, really dangerous’. He said ‘it doesn’t matter’. Spinners or fast bowlers, he knows one way. But I think he’s worked really hard on his batting from the last time I’ve seen him. His timing has gotten a lot better and he’s hitting all over the park,” Rahul told Star Sports at the post-match presentation.

While dew was making it very tough for the bowlers, CSK were playing the defensive game well and even though they were stretched in terms of resources available for the latter part of the chase, they had done of good job of pulling things back. LSG needed 55 off 24 deliveries, when CSK brought on Dwaine Pretorius and Dwayne Bravo for successive overs. Lewis and Hooda struck a six apiece in those two overs but with 34 needed off the last two overs and Ayush Badoni for company, Lewis’ role wasn’t finished yet.

This was when CSK, finished with the quota from the overseas pacemen and unable to use the spinners with the wet ball, resorted to Shivam Dube for the penultimate over. While Badoni started the over with a six, it was Lewis who pretty much sealed the game in LSG’s favour when he struck two fours and a six off successive deliveries as he brought up a 23-ball fifty and brought down the equation to eight off the final over. Badoni finished it off from thereon.

Despite the rapid pace T20 format and big hits flying all over the part, it was also a tactical battle that CSK and Lewis were involved in. CSK were looking to stretch the game by using their best available resources to keep LSG in check and increase the required rate. But Lewis was also cognizant of CSK’s plans and did well to foil it by targeting their weakest link. Stephen Fleming, CSK’s head coach, admitted that they got the “pivotal” one over wrong towards the end, especially with the wet ball not allowing any wiggle space for the spinners.

But as Lewis had told Rahul, it “doesn’t matter” whether it’s the seamers bowling or the spinners. He knows one way, be it as an opener or a finisher, and that one way was enough on a gripping night at the Brabourne.

Updated: April 2, 2022 — 3:56 pm

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