West Indies opener Lendl Simmons endured an afternoon of horror in his team's T20 World Cup match against South Africa. What's the worst thing that can happen to a batter in T20 cricket? Getting out on a golden duck? Accidentally running out your partner who's been in good nick? Hitting your own wickets? You can make a case for all of them but probably the worst experience for a batter in the shortest format of the sport is when he's stuck in a limbo where he can neither hit the ball nor level the crease.
Lendl Simmons was trapped in that zone for an extended period today and it ended up hurting his side West Indies. The 36-year-old faced 35 deliveries but ended up scoring only 16 runs. Simmons failed to hit a single six or boundary and it's unbelievable to imagine how his opening partner Evin Lewis smashed a 35-ball 56 from the other end.
Of batters who've faced 35 balls or more in the history of T20I cricket, this was the second slowest innings of all time. Lendl Simmons had a strike rate of 45.71 today, only marginally better than Alok Kapali who had a strike rate of 40 while facing South Africa in the World T20 in 2007. In the history of the T20 World Cup, Simmons' innings is the third slowest with Scotland's Majid Haq taking the second spot behind Kapali. He also faced the most balls in a T20 World Cup innings without hitting a boundary.
It's not uncommon for batters to have off days at work. Some days the bat just won't connect sweetly with the ball, sometimes the timing will be off or the conditions might be difficult to get used to. Red-ball cricket and even ODI cricket will allow these batters extended periods of time to adjust their bearings and make changes to their game in order to step their foot on the gas later.
T20 cricket is a whole different beast. Wasting 35 deliveries of the allotted 120 takes away the chances for Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, or Shimron Hetmyer lower down the order to make any kind of instant impact on the game thus, paralysing the collective batting order. All four have strike rates of over 115 in T20I cricket. Simmons' innings also ended up increasing the pressure on his partner Evin Lewis who played a composed and well-timed innings despite watching the horror show from the other end.
In the post-match press conference captain Kieron Pollard refused to throw his player under the bus and sympathized with him by saying that sometimes these things tend to happen. "Yes, he (Simmons) got stuck, these things happen. After six overs he was there and we wanted to bat a couple of more overs without losing wickets but you are not going to get me pinpoint and you are not going to get me throwing my players under the bus. At the end of the day, he was out there trying for us," Pollard pointed.
Sometimes these innings have a happy ending for the batter concerned. Rahul Tewatia's spectacular 5-sixes an over comeback in the game against Punjab Kings in IPL 2020 is still fresh in everyone's memory. But that wasn't the case for Lendl Simmons who had to witness Kagiso Rabada ending his misery by targeting his stumps. That was the loudest cheer he witnessed on the day.