There was a time in Kings XI Punjab's chase of 191 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday night, when a section of the home crowd got up and left the stadium. Punjab were reeling at 68 for four at the halfway point, still needing an improbable 122 more runs for victory, and to stay in contention for the playoffs, in the next 10 overs. A tall order, that, even for a Twenty20 game.
Not many batsmen and teams would have backed their chances. Bangalore would have started planning their post-match celebrations, while the Punjab dug-out would have probably started preparing for life outside the playoffs. However, not a single person at the PCA Stadium — not even the ones who had decided to stick it out — would have predicted what was to happen next.
What was to happen next would forever be remembered as "Miller Time" at Mohali, and it had nothing to do with any beverage, as a 23-year-old baby-faced South African from Natal who went by the name of David Miller tore into the Bangalore bowling. Vinay Kumar was the first victim as Miller helped KXIP get 17 from the 14th over with three boundaries and a six. To make matters worse for RCB, skipper Virat Kohli, owner of one of the safest pair of hands in the competition, dropped the left-hander's high catch that slipped through his hands and bounced off his cheek.
As Kohli held his left cheek and stared at the dropped ball on the ground in disbelief, a green signal illuminated in the mind of Miller and told him it was his night, with Punjab still needing 79 off 36 balls. RP Singh, who bowled the next over, was then absolutely massacred as Miller bombarded the 'V', bludgeoning two maximums and three boundaries, and reduced the equation to 53 off 30 balls.
Ravi Rampaul was thrashed for 16 in the next over and Vinay Kumar went for 18, and all of a sudden, Punjab were clear favourites. Miller got the game to a premature end on the last ball of the 18th over as he spanked a fullish delivery on his pads from Chris Gayle over the sightscreen. Miller jumped from 95 to 101 in the process, notching a magnificent fairytale of a hundred in just 38 balls. What was astonishing was that he was on 31 in 19 balls not long ago, meaning the next 19 deliveries had fetched him 70 runs.
It was the third-fastest hundred in IPL history, behind only Chris Gayle (30 balls) and Yusuf Pathan (37 balls). Taking nothing away from the other two knocks, Miller's clearly stands out since it came under pressure in a second-innings chase, unlike Gayle's, and also took his team home, unlike Yusuf's. You could even say that this was one of the finest, if not the finest, Twenty20 knocks ever seen and will definitely take some matching.
Miller has been one of the finds of this IPL and a real gem unearthed by Punjab. He had blazed his way to amatch-winning 80 off 41 balls in just his second game of the season. Chasing 185 for victory against Pune Warriors, Punjab were 58 for three when Miller walked in ahead of David Hussey. At the time, it would have seemed a foolish move, with Hussey perhaps being the only Punjab batsman in good form. But Miller proved his doubters wrong with a swashbuckling innings and, needless to say now, won the match with a huge six over long-on.
He was to follow it up with yet another match-winning innings of 34 against Delhi Daredevils after Punjab were on the brink of a collapse chasing 120. Later, against the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, Miller's timely half-centuries almost got Punjab home, but his efforts were to be undone by hard luck coupled with poor batting from the rest.
In the seven matches he has played so far, Miller has piled on 352 runs including a hundred and three half-centuries at a whopping 117.33 and strike-rate of 173.39. That's just seven runs short of Suresh Raina — the fifth-highest run-scorer of the season and someone who has played five innings more than Miller. At the rate he's going, Miller could even end up with an Orange Cap soon enough if Punjab make the playoffs.
In David Miller, you have a genuine unadulterated finisher of the game. He is no Chris Gayle or Virender Sehwag, who are born aggressors and murderers of bowling attacks regardless of the situation. He is someone who reminds you of a Yuvraj Singh or a Michael Bevan in their prime. Miller is a utility batsman who will shape his innings according to the situation and, more often than not, get you there. He's a captain's delight and has already made his name as one of the most reliable batsmen in the death overs. It comes as no surprise then that Miller has been picked in the South African squad for the ICC Champions Trophy next month.
"If it's in the 'V', it's in the tree. If it's in the arc, it's out of the park." — is the gospel according to Miller. It's a mantra his dad has drilled into him and Miller now recites it with finesse on the cricket field — 61 of his 101 runs came in the 'V', including all his seven hits out of the park.
It's just that simple.