Tristan Stubbs might have batted in a T20I just once, but the early indications are that he could end up being South Africa’s next T20 batting sensation, writes Shashwat Kumar.
Over the past few months, there has been plenty of hype around Tristan Stubbs. Just 21, he’s been regularly setting the South African domestic stage alight in the shortest format, having scored 580 runs at an average of 36.25 and a strike rate of 163.84 in all T20 cricket so far. Last year, he rattled along at a strike rate of 183.12 and an average of 48.83 in CSA’s T20 Challenge. The eye-catching numbers were enough to help him bag an IPL contract this year. Soon enough, he was a part of Mumbai Indians, IPL’s most successful side.
He only featured twice, though, tallying two runs in as many innings, and for those who hadn’t followed his earlier pyrotechnics, it only led to them questioning what the fuss was all about. With Dewald Brevis, another precociously talented South African youngster, taking a liking to the IPL, Stubbs remained on the sidelines, until his explosive international debut on Wednesday against England. With just one night’s worth of work, he would have won over many supporters, and earned a few more.
His knock at Bristol, in so many ways, was quite special, eliciting a reaction from South African great Dale Steyn, among many others. With South Africa chasing a near-unbeatable 235, Stubbs came out with a stunning counterpunch, clubbing eight sixes, and racing to a 19-ball fifty. Walking into the perilous situation – his side had slipped to 86-4 in the 10th over, he hardly showed nerves, highlighting that he has the temperament to sustain himself at this level. The most pleasing aspect, though, was the way he dominated the England bowling attack, operating like a man on a mission.
To get his innings going, he took down Moeen Ali. The off-spinner had just accounted for Reeza Hendricks and would’ve been high on confidence after his exploits earlier in the evening. The first ball Stubbs faced was turned to the leg side for a couple. The next ball, however, was launched over long on for a six. A delivery later, he went down on one knee and smashed Moeen over cow corner, before rounding off the over with a sumptuous lofted extra cover drive.
The youngster was severe on Adil Rashid too, making room for himself and targeting the leg side with ease. Against the pace of Chris Jordan, Reece Topley, Richard Gleeson and Sam Curran, he opted to sit back in his crease and use his power to clear the fence, accessing the arc from extra cover to square leg. One shot off Gleeson was particularly remarkable, where he stood tall and forehanded a six over the bowler’s head. Gleeson, for context, had been bowling thunderbolts all evening. Stubbs, though, made it feel as if a spinner was operating.
It might be early days yet, but there were enough indications to suggest that Stubbs has the ingredients for becoming a T20 batting star in the near future. Possessing a strong base and utilising his arc well, he seems to be having a method to his six-hitting madness too. At 21, he also seems to know how to handle pressure.
Stubbs is now the youngest South African to hit a T20I half-century. He has the third highest individual score for South Africa while batting at 6 or lower, and he also produced the third highest strike rate for any South African batter in an innings (minimum 50 runs).
In many ways, then, the blitz justified the hype built up over the last few months. There is a high possibility that he will get another shot at the IPL and numerous gigs around the globe: initial impressions are often more lasting than others. For Stubbs, the Bristol knock could just be one of many.