Which Manish Pandey will turn up against Punjab?
34, 51, 3, 29, 30, 1, 54, 4, 6
Manish Pandey's numbers this season before his last game were reasonable, yet nothing to write home about. The Hyderabad middle-order batsman, however, came out all guns blazing in the last game against Rajasthan, notably after Jofra Archer ran through David Warner and Jonny Bairstow inside three overs.
Grit and fighting when the chips are down has been a trademark of Manish Pandey's domestic career too, but against Rajasthan, he took a different route. He wasn't just looking to survive in the run-chase but took the attack to the Rajasthan bowlers.
In the very next over after Bairstow's dismissal, Pandey slashed Kartik Tyagi for a couple of fours in succession. When Ben Stokes came on, he was greeted with a whip for six and an audacious pull for another maximum.
An 18-run final over of the Powerplay ensued as Rajasthan lost the plot entirely despite being on top after the first half of the Powerplay. From 39 off 19 inside the first six overs, Manish forged a splendid stand with Vijay Shankar and finished on 83* off a mere 47 balls.
The standout feature of Pandey's innings was the authority with which he marshalled the run-chase and ensured there was no hiccup. Even with Kane Williamson absent and Warner and Bairstow back in the hut early, the sense of responsibility with which he played, while not cutting down on the flair, was remarkable.
T20 run-chases are often won and lost inside the first six overs. After Archer's first two overs, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Hyderabad until Manish remarkably changed it around.
Deviating from the questionable method of taking run-chases deep, Manish made 37 in 26 balls in the middle overs without taking undue risk, yet attacking the Rajasthan spinners. Even as Vijay Shankar played himself in within these overs, moving to 46 at run-a-ball after 16 overs, Manish was aggressive and keen to finish the chase early.
The Manish Pandey we know in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, Vijay Hazare Trophy and India A matches is a consistent beast capable of doing this day in, day out. Yet, that's not how his Indian T20 League or India career has panned out thus far.
With middling returns and shades of brilliance overshadowed by long periods of lull, Manish has become a domestic stalwart who doesn't quite do it consistently enough at the highest level.
You never know which Manish turns up on most days. Yet, this Indian T20 League, he has found comfort in the support offered for him in the Hyderabad franchise. He has consistently batted a lot at No. 3 this year (in all but two games) and even pushed Williamson down the order.
His 295-run tally after 10 matches promises much about how the rest of the season could go. He has only once ever made more than 400 runs in an Indian T20 League season. This time around, the middle-order batsman seems to be well on his way to usurping the tally that year.
Interestingly, there's more intent in his batting too. The strike-rate that languished below 125 in 2017 and 2018 shot up to 130 last year and 134 this year. His strike-rate against different bowling types has also massively improved this season.
The issue, as always, is if the same Manish Pandey turns up next game too. While this is never a question when he plays for his state teams or for India A, it remains a pertinent one in the T20 League and for India. Right now, even he may not be able to answer that. But if he can carry the mojo and fire from the last game, Manish will relieve Hyderabad of a lot of headaches surrounding the patchy scoring rates of Warner and Bairstow this season.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com / Hyderbad