There are remarkable innings featuring mind-boggling hitting dime a dozen as players and teams get adept at handling the tight squeeze of T20s but are forgotten just as soon as they are played. Manan Vohra played a knock on a sultry night in Hyderabad, ultimately in vain, that will be remembered for a long time. As much as Vohra's 95 runs in the chase of 160 runs outshone his teammates — no one else passed 13 for the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) — and made a mockery of the pitch and the conditions that did not allow free strokeplay for anyone including David Warner, it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar's strikes with the swinging new ball and the accurate death knells with the old ball that sealed the deal for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) that desperately looked for a victory to right their season after losing two matches on the road.
Bhuvneshwar has been doing the yeoman service in the Indian team last four years, doing his best every time a seamer that's ahead of him in the pecking order goes down to injury or form, and returning to the bench when his services are no longer needed. He has been the consummate team man delivering eye-catching results when on the field, and carrying the water without grudges off the field.
He had always been a consistent threat swinging the cricket ball but with added yards of pace in the last couple of years, he has taken his game to another level where he could threaten batsmen across formats. Michael Clarke on air reiterated the utility of the “underrated” Bhuvneshwar in all three formats multiple times during the course of the UP pacer's career night in the IPL.
In the ninth season of the IPL in 2016, Bhuvneshwar, along with his captain Warner, was instrumental in SRH winning the trophy for the first time. He was the purple cap winner — given to the highest wicket-taker — and as the 10th season heats up, Bhuvneshwar is already in the possession of the purple cap and has put some distance between himself and the chasers.
SRH were outclassed by the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Mumbai Indians after opening the season with two wins. They needed a shot in the arm to return to their winning ways, as were their night's opponents KXIP. Thanks to their batting talisman Warner, SRH managed to stitch together 159 runs and post a total that would be competitive if their bowlers, led by Bhuvneshwar in the absence of the experienced Ashish Nehra, did the damage. And damage he did, by removing the mighty Hashim Amla first ball with an inswinger that moved in late to trap the South African plumb in front.
Glenn Maxwell walked in to the face the second ball of the innings and flicked the inswinger that swerved even more for a boundary. If MadMax had continued on in his merry ways, the game could have been over before you could say B-h-u-v-a-n-e-s-h-w-a-r, but in his second over, the SRH bowler set the trap in cahoots with his captain and daring Maxwell to hit over the long off fielder — Warner himself. The Victorian obliged but the pace on the ball was off just enough that it carried only three-quarters of the way. Warner camped under it, cupped it and turned to his dug out and let out a mighty roar.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar will rightly be celebrated for the cool head he demonstrated to seal the win in the 17th and 19th overs, including the prize wicket of Vohra, trapped in front by a peach of a yorker — the ball tracker animation showed the delivery to be landing at the base of middle stump, it does not get any more inch perfect than that — but by removing Amla and Maxwell in the first three overs of the innings, Bhuvneshwar had ensured firstly that SRH were in with a chance and that neither the steady hands of Amla nor the swashbuckling shots of Maxwell would have any say in the final result.
With the Afghan spin twins delivering decisive blows in the middle removing Eoin Morgan, David Miller and Wriddhiman Saha, the fat lady was clearing her throat, but Vohra intervened. Even as batsmen everywhere have shown to fail in picking the variations from Rashid Khan, Vohra blasted the 18-year-old leg-spinner to the tune of 37 runs, including one of the sweetest sounding slog sweep over midwicket and the only thing that seemed to stop it from climbing in to orbit was the second tier at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Vohra's 95 was the fourth-highest percentage of a team's runs in a completed IPL innings, second-highest individual score in a losing cause in IPL, and his personal best T20 score as well.
On any other night, when an opening batsman scores more than 60 percent of the runs required in a chase and is still at the crease in the 19th over of the innings, the batting side would have been the odds-on favorite to win the game. But on this night, when the cool man from Meerut with calm head on his shoulders registered his best IPL bowling figures of 5/19 where 15 of the allowed 24 deliveries were not scored off, Vohra could only finish second best.