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Free Hit

Six sixes in an over: still special after all these years

The way batters monster totals in T20, you would think hitting six sixes in an over would be routine. It's not

Osman Samiuddin
Osman Samiuddin
Raining sixes: Dipendra Singh Airee became the third player to hit six sixes in an over in T20Is  •  Surjeet Yadav/Getty Images

Raining sixes: Dipendra Singh Airee became the third player to hit six sixes in an over in T20Is  •  Surjeet Yadav/Getty Images

This is the second post on a new blog, Free Hit, that features random thoughts, observations and reflections from ESPNcricinfo's writers.
Last week Dipendra Singh Airee of Nepal hit Kamran Khan of Qatar for six sixes in an over at the Al Amerat Ground of Oman. It's a wonderful sentence to be able to write for its cosmopolitan tenor. Cricket is a big sport without a great geographic spread, but it is bigger for this sentence.
Quite likely you did not see the feat live, though the ACC Premier Cup is broadcast live on YouTube. By now you must have come across clips, though, in the same way as watching Sir Garry Sobers do it for the first time on YouTube, the experience is unsatisfying. We're thoroughly spoilt by modern broadcasts.
Airee thumps one over square leg into the neighbouring ground, halfway to the 30-yard circle there. Sobers lashed his final one in a similar direction, also out of the ground, and in the words of the commentator, on the way to Swansea.
But what strikes me most is the fact that this was only the third time it had been done in T20Is. In a 20-year-old format in which the existence of bowlers feels like an administrative oversight - they needn't be there, right? - that feels too few. This is a format that has switched the language of batters from deference to dominance. They used to talk about taking on bowlers. Now, as Phil Salt does here, they talk about taking down bowlers.
So many sixes are hit now, with such frequency, that hitting six in a row in a single over feels, like Thanos, inevitable (last year Airee hit six in six balls against Mongolia but across two overs). As I write, Sunrisers Hyderabad have hit an IPL-high 287 at the Chinnaswamy, including a record 22 sixes (the game ends with 38, the joint-highest number of sixes in a T20). Heinrich Klassen, among the world's foremost six-hitters, is monstering them out of the ground with a nonchalance that suggests he could empty his pockets and find six sixes there.
And yet, only three times. Despite all the specialised power-hitting training, the muscle-building, the expanding bats and contracting boundaries. The plot twist, of course, is that T20s have also shown us that 36 is not the maximum that can be scored off one over, merely the neatest maximum: six legal balls, six sixes. Somehow the most T20 learning ever is that even 36 has been surpassed six times: kids, don't think 36, think beyond.
So, not easy at all - its difficulty evidenced precisely by the rarity of the feat, and still, something to be genuinely in awe of. And to have done it all those years ago, with those toothpick-wide bats, on wilder wickets, in those times? Harder still and testament once again to the breathtaking genius of Sobers.

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo