A new dawn greeted the Sunrisers, but they had to travel deep into the West to greet their ball of fire. The team from Hyderabad produced a beautiful yet devastating performance against undefeated Gujarat, taming the Lions in their own den with a brutally clinical performance.
The bowlers, led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and ably supported by Bipul Sharma and Mustafizur Rahman, were at their efficient best. Shikhar Dhawan finally found respite from his well-documented strife at the crease. Warner continued to plunder runs and the team marched towards a commanding 10-wicket victory.
Bhuvneshwar has recovered well from the mauling he received at the hands of the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first match of IPL 2016. After bleeding 55 runs in that match, he has given away just 75 off his next 12 overs spread across three games. On Thursday night, he produced an in-swinging peach that squeezed through the gap to dismiss an in-form Aaron Finch in the very first over. Having laid the foundation early on, Bhuvneshwar returned for a final flourish. He took three wickets in the last over, including the dangerous Suresh Raina, strangulating the Lions to death.
The SCA Stadium in Rajkot is a ground with massive boundaries, especially square off the wicket. Sharma and Rahman made intelligent use of that, inviting the batsmen with an enticing length. Deepak Hooda and Barinder Sran too were beneficiaries of a rope that proved too deep.
The dismissal of Brendon McCullum was a big turning point. The Lions were 50-1 at the end of the power play, coasting along smoothly despite the early loss of Finch. Bipul then tossed one just outside off, tempting McCullum into a slog sweep that failed to clear deep mid-wicket.
Raina was finally making some runs, scoring his first T20 fifty in 31 outings, but the Sunrisers kept chipping away at the other end. Dinesh Karthik fell in the 10th over and Dwayne Bravo departed four overs later. Bravo was finding it difficult to put the bowlers away, making just eight off 12 balls. He holed out at deep square leg, trying to muscle an innocuous Sran delivery that lacked pace.
Ravindra Jadeja's run-a-ball 14 wasn't enough under the circumstances and his departure in the 17th left Raina needing to make some quick runs to the end. But Rahman's brilliance at the death tied the Lions into an unwieldy knot.
Dhawan's return to form augurs well for Sunrisers. In times of drought, the runs have also dried up for Dhawan. But finally, the small chase against Lions offered Dhawan an opportunity to redeem himself with an innings of substance. With only 136 needed for victory, Warner played with great freedom. By the time he coasted to his half-century in 29 balls, SRH needed less than six an over, allowing a cautious Dhawan to ease up, just in time to score the third 50 of a relatively low-scoring match.
Dhawan's first 25 took 24 balls as he made the most of an easy chase. But he then rushed to a much-needed 50 off 40 balls, adding some zip to his innings. By the time it was all done, there were still five overs left, underlining the comfort with which the Hyderabad team won this match.
Between them, Raina, Warner and Dhawan scored over 200 runs without a single six. And when the Lions go back and review their performance, they will be disappointed that they tried taking on the square boundaries on a ground they should have known well.
After starting with a couple of painful losses, Sunrisers are singing a clearly different tune now as they turn the tide in their favour. They have four points from as many games and have risen to fourth on the table. Warner's men have built up enormous momentum with their victories over Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Lions. It could turn into a tidal wave if they defeat Kings XI Punjab on Saturday.