Victory is a value that needs to be nurtured like a little plant. It needs to be watered gently with the virtues of hard work and application in order that it retains its scent in the garden. Amid intermittent showers and bowler friendly conditions on Tuesday, Sunrisers Hyderabad needed just those virtues to continue their rousing streak of victories. Unfortunately though, they produced a performance that lacked conviction, wilting in the face of some disciplined bowling by an Ashok Dinda-led Rising Pune Supergiants attack.
As we reach the halfway stage of the tournament, the Sunrisers will face some stern challenges in their quest to qualify for the second phase of the IPL. Only three of their remaining eight games are at home, and two of these will be the visits of formidable Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat Lions.
The Sunrisers face Mumbai Indians on 8 May, but they need to consolidate their position in the top half of the table by then. Tuesday's match against Pune served as a reality check for a team soaking in the joy of three straight victories. There is work to do and it will take a steadier set of hands to steer their ship into the knockout stages of this IPL season.
The weather was wet and the toss was lost. Sunrisers needed to get off to a strong start against a Pune team that was desperately in need of victory. Instead, they lost captain and top-scorer David Warner in the very first over, slashing at a wide delivery. Having lived off Warner's brilliance through the early weeks, it was time for the middle order to pick up the baton for the team. But instead of shouldering responsibility, the batters marched in and out to a parade of pathetic batting that lacked both conviction and commitment.
Aditya Tare had an opportunity to make his case at number three. But after mucking around for 14 balls that yielded just 8 runs, he fell to poor shot selection. He was caught at cover trying a half-hearted pull to a short ball outside the off stump.
A couple of good innings from Eoin Morgan signaled a return to form for the England T20 captain, but he drew a duck on Tuesday. Morgan paid the price for an expansive drive without moving his feet as he helped the ball into Dhoni's reliable gloves. At the end of the PowerPlay, the home side was 27 for three and the pressure was clearly telling on them. Deepak Hooda got just one run from eight balls, before trying a reverse sweep to an innocuous Ashwin delivery, to again edge through to Dhoni.
It was still only the ninth over when Moises Henriques tickled an inviting half-volley down the leg side, for Dhoni to take his third catch of the evening. Half the team was cooling its heels on the bench with only 32 runs on the board. The match was already lost by that stage.
Shikhar Dhawan stayed the course and tried to perform a rescue act with Naman Ojha, but the situation was irreparable. His 53-ball 56 was the only positive note for Hyderabad in an otherwise dismal evening.
By the end, the rain gods took pity on a struggling Sunrisers, bringing the match to an abrupt end in the 11th over. At 94-3, the Supergiants were ahead by an embarrassing 34 runs through Duckworth Lewis.
Sunrisers now need a more definitive performance against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday. They will be face the formidable batting might of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, perhaps even a hungry Chris Gayle. The bowling needs to be top draw, as it has been this season. But it will be the batsmen's responsibility to come together as a unit. They will need to deliver a massive performance to get past the team from Bengaluru and bring the boat back on course.