Devon Conway lit up the opening fixture of the Super 12 stage with a sumptuous knock. It is time his Twenty20 credentials are talked about more often, and more glowingly, thinks Shashwat Kumar.
A year and a half ago in Lord’s, Conway shot to stardom with a double century on Test debut, becoming only the seventh men’s cricketer to achieve that feat. His technique and temperament was rightly heralded. His story of moving to New Zealand from South Africa was equally publicised and many dubbed this knock as the real coming of a special batting talent.
What went under the radar, though, was that Conway had already been playing for New Zealand for nine months at that point. He debuted in a T20I against the West Indies in November 2021. As with Test cricket, he had immediately looked a part in the shortest format, scoring 41 in 29 balls. A game later, he notched up an unbeaten 65.
Ever since, Conway has been churning out runs in T20I cricket. However, since he has also been successful in Test cricket, and has not put a foot wrong in ODIs, there has not been much talk about his T20I pedigree. All of that, however, must change, especially after a remarkable knock against Australia at the Sydney.
During that innings, Conway became the joint-third fastest to score a thousand runs in T20I cricket. Among batters from Test-playing nations, only Dawid Malan has got there quicker, in his 26th innings. With a 1,000-run cut-off, Conway also has the best average of all time (57.38). Among those to have scored a thousand T20I runs at over 40, Conway’s strike rate is the second highest – only behind Virat Kohli’s.
Conway’s record in wins is sensational too. New Zealand have won 21 of the 29 matches he has featured in. Conway averages 74.27 in these, at a strike rate of 142. Among batters with 500 runs in wins, Conway’s average is the second best, only behind Mohammad Rizwan’s. His numbers when batting first – often considered the tougher gig in the shortest format – are also exceptional: he averages 57.75 and strikes at 144.
All of these aspects came to the fore against Australia on Saturday, wherein Conway powered the Black Caps to a total that was well beyond the hosts’ reach. His innings, despite coming at a strike rate of close to 160, was not a combination of brute force and innovative strokes. He relied on conventional cricketing shots and picked the right ball and the right bowlers to attack.
That, coupled with his dexterity against pace and spin, enables him to score irrespective of the opposition and the conditions. At times, he is a little slow off the blocks, but he averages a tick more than 57 and strikes at more than 136, illustrating that he seldom gets things wrong.
Thus, Conway’s T20I career is definitely worth talking about more glowingly and more often. Whenever you speak about him, the inclination is to reminisce his magnificent double ton on Test debut, and talk about his technique and temperament. A quick glance at his T20I statistics, though, will tell you that he is perhaps as complete an all-format player as any.
Australia found that out first-hand on Saturday, and they might not be the last team to meet that sort of fate either.