After defeats in their first two IPL matches, the Sunrisers Hyderabad were aching for a revival. Shikhar Dhawan's woeful form with the bat continued, leaving the onus of scoring runs on captain David Warner's shoulders. And that is exactly what Warner did on Monday, scoring an unbeaten 90 that helped them trounce Mumbai Indians.
However, the seeds of this victory were sown in the first session, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar combined with Barinder Sran and Moises Henriques to keep Mumbai Indians on a tight leash.
Warner has been under pressure, with questions being asked about his captaincy, only compounded by the lack of runs from his bat. But the Aussie opener again showed that he was committed to the success of his team, playing a measured innings, paced to perfection.
After yet another early departure by Dhawan — he was gone in the first over — Warner worked with Henriques to build a solid platform. In future matches too, it might be the captain's innings at the top of the order that would have to sparkle, in order to turn this into a productive IPL campaign for the Sunrisers.
Henriques provided good support to Warner and it took an extraordinary catch by Hardik Pandya to get rid of a promising Eoin Morgan. Compared to the tepid batting performance against Kolkata Knight Riders in their previous match, this was a far more responsible effort from the Sunrisers' top-order.
The exception of course was Dhawan, who needs to introspect the reasons for his continued failure with the bat. It is perhaps time to bench the opener and recalibrate the batting order. One of the options would be to have Morgan open with Warner, replacing Dhawan with Aditya Tare or Abhimanyu Mithun.
The Sunrisers' bowlers were key to the team's maiden victory in this year's IPL. Right from the fourth ball of the match, Mumbai Indians were on the back foot. Bhuvneshwar swung the ball well in humid conditions and his four-over spell, where he conceded just 17 runs and took Guptill's wicket, kept Mumbai under check.
Sran then deployed a brilliant slower ball to fox the dangerous Parthiv Patel, denting Mumbai even further with two men back in the hut inside the fourth over. His spell was vital for Hyderabad, accounting for three important wickets which pegged the visitors back. Henriques also delivered a disciplined spell to prevent Mumbai from recovering after the early loss of two wickets.
Mustafizur Rahman's 17th over was a treat to watch. He shackled Ambati Rayudu by bowling full and straight with cover and mid-off up in the circle for protection. Even when Rayudu tried to make room, Rahman managed to correct his length and retain control.
Just five runs came off that over as the Sunrisers wrested back the initiative from Mumbai. Rahman's dismissal of Hardik Pandya in the 19th over was also a vital contribution, given the young batter's ability to deliver some lusty blows at the end. Bipul Sharma was ineffective, but the rest of the bowling machine turned in a cohesive effort, laying the foundation for victory.
The two points come as a timely shot in the arm for Sunrisers, before they depart for Rajkot. The Gujarat Lions are undefeated in three matches, while Sunrisers have just picked up just their first win. The two teams meet on Thursday. With the temperature in the mid-thirties and humidity rising throughout the evening, it might make sense to bowl first again and chase down the target. The moisture on the ground will also make it increasingly difficult to grip the ball later into the night.
Warner and his men will need to score a victory against the Lions to bring some confidence home for their Saturday night encounter against Kings XI Punjab. If they can make it three straight victories, the spark that Bhuvneshwar and Warner lit on Monday could turn into a fire by the end of this week.