The other night at Chelmsford, Owais Shah played the shot of the season. It should not pass unacknowledged. It wasn't a new invention, not a flip or a scoop or a glide; it wasn't a power-mow, a skimming bomb, a cultured hoik. It wasn't from the MCC manual either, not because it lacked orthodoxy, but because it was simply unavailable to most players. It was a piece of skill so pure that very, very few people on earth could have executed it.
I doubt that even Shah expected the result he got. He'd just come to the crease with Essex chasing Kent's 183. The score was 9-1 after a couple of overs. The lights were on, the ball was swinging a little, Essex had to win to qualify from the group. Shah is skittish at the best of times, a fragile, scarred talent, and he began uneasily. Charl Langeveldt and Azhar Mahmood were bowling, taking the ball mostly away from the right-handers. Langeveldt sent one down on a good length, tailing out at about 85mph. Shah picked his bat up, stepped across his crease and shaped to push forwards. In essence that was all he did. As he finished the shot he accelerated a little into the briefest of follow-throughs.
At first, the ball looked to have popped up towards mid-off; maybe Shah had been done a little by the bounce and offered a simple catch. Yet instead it continued to climb. Shah watched it open-eyed. It went up and onwards into the evening sky, cleared the boundary and then carried the two-tier stand and departed the ground altogether. Shah looked down at the wicket. A few of the other players glanced at one another. The ball had to be replaced.
The pace of the game, and its importance, didn't really leave much time for reflection, but that shot was a small miracle of timing and striking. It didn't really help Shah, or Essex, either. He made 27 from 20 balls, and Essex lost by 15 runs. The main talking point afterwards was a catch Scott Styris claimed and had disallowed, yet Shah's shot will stay in the memory for longer than any of that.
Owais's racehorse temperament has cost him with England, but this was a glimpse of the possible. Perhaps only Sehwag could play a shot like it - Shah's was that good.
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