The joy of watching a batsman milking runs at ease in Test cricket is of a different level altogether. Clearing the boundary at will is most of the times is difficult, but some batsmen are born with this rare talent. For instance, Colin de Grandhomme has exhibited this quality of clean hitting in two innings on a trot against West Indies.
A year back, not many would have anticipated the New Zealand all-rounder to be in the Test side. But as a matter of fact, he is now developing into a vital cog. He has been a regular member in all three formats for New Zealand and his exploits against the shorter formats have certainly earned him a spot against the red ball.
Grandhomme can bowl handy medium-pace and can strike the ball clean; when he hits it remains a hit. Seldom you see Grandhomme not clearing the big boundary, he is a power-hitter and takes on the bowling attack with ease. One can expect some fireworks as soon as Grandhomme walks out in the middle. Having said so, it also keeps the bowling side in business. A cricketer of his calibre is well suited to bat at 7 in Test cricket.
Grandhomme thrashed the West Indies bowling attack by smashing the second fastest Test ton by a Kiwi in the opening Test, which came off just 71 deliveries. He came out all guns blazing under the pump and changed the course of the match with some belligerence and style.
Grandhomme continued his good form at Seddon Park and smashed another brisk half-century to put his side in a comfortable position. New Zealand were in desperate need of another Grandhomme magic, and the all-rounder didn’t disappoint. He was very cautious at the start as this was also the time when West Indies seamers were exploiting the conditions well and getting some movement. The fact that he just scored a single off first 16 deliveries speaks about the kind of astuteness Grandhomme has and looks to analyse the conditions before launching an attack.
The toss went in West Indies’ favour and they asked New Zealand to bat first on a surface, which had grass and was expected to produce some movement. Their openers started off on a promising note, but soon a batting collapse saw them being precariously placed at 189 for 5. West Indies seamers fought hard to bring their side back into the game.
This was a very tricky situation as a wicket here would have steered New Zealand in all sorts of trouble. Grandhomme stitched a crucial 76-run stand with Mitchell Santner to put New Zealand in a fighting position. He smashed four sixes and as many boundaries; there was also an intense battle going on with Rostan Chase, who was at the receiving end when Grandhomme fired with all cylinders.
When a batsman plays an innings as such, it not only gets the side quick runs but also lifts the tempo. It shifts the momentum within a session and transfers the pressure back on the fielding side. The fielding side in under humongous pressure as they are now not only trying to scalp a wicket but also save the runs. An approach like this also puts the bowler under pressure, an error in length and Grandhomme will be ready to pounce on it.
Former Australian wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist has done a similar job in whites at a similar position. Both, Gilchrist and Grandhomme have similar batting instincts and style. They back their natural hitting abilities and prefer to go out hard against the bowling. Grandhomme has the ingredients to develop into a reliable No.7 for New Zealand.
Although it might be a bit early to say so, as Grandhomme is just eight Tests old and has a long way to go, but the signs are promising. He has discovered his mojo and has been a handy contributor with the ball as well. The 31-year-old still has a lot of cricket to offer and looks the best fit for a No.7 at the moment in this New Zealand side.
Opening batsman Jeet Raval was quoted in a report by nzherald.co.nz saying, “He’s batting unbelievably well at the moment. He soaked up pressure for 10 to 15 minutes to give himself a chance to get it and when he got opportunities to score he made the most of them. He’s a better cricketer now, having played international cricket around the world. He’s very confident in his game and we are seeing it. Long may it continue.”
Gradually, Grandhomme is evolving into a match-turner for New Zealand with his aggressive approach. He has now scored two fifties and a century in his last three Test innings, and has looked unstoppable in this format.
Fans are on their feet when Grandhomme takes guard at the crease. His rise as a Test all-rounder is a good news for New Zealand, if he manages to find consistency, there is no reason why Grandhomme cannot evolve into a world-class all-rounder and a match-turner.