The Sunrisers were chasing a hat-trick of wins on Saturday and it was a magical spell from Mustafizur Rahman that did the trick for a team that is clearly on the rise. He took his craft to a new level against Kings XI Punjab at the Sunrisers' home ground at Uppal, with an astounding spell that contained 17 dot balls, no boundaries and two wickets. David Warner then played his hand with the bat for a third match running to see the home team clinch a hat-trick of victories that carried them to third on the table.
The 20 year old Bangladeshi has been a revelation with his incisive bowling being one of the major contributors to Hyderabad's revival after they lost their first two matches. Rahman has conceded just 115 runs so far in his 20 overs, picking up seven wickets, but his most important contribution has been in restricting the runs in the end overs.
On Saturday, he did that to near perfection. There was not a run in sight through his first nine balls, incredible for a format where a profuse bleeding of runs is the order of the day. Punjab also failed to score a single boundary against Rahman, as he held them to the ropes like a late over master craftsman in a format that is still under study. The young Bangladeshi will feature greatly on the back room analysts' list of mysteries to solve, but till then, he seems to have discovered the ideal length and movement to trouble batsmen.
Rahman's two blows sucked the life out of an already stifled Punjab effort. His dismissal of Shaun Marsh was significant. The Aussie was chugging along nicely, scripting a potential recovery in the company of Nikhil Naik. Marsh made 40 off 33 balls, laced with a couple of sixes. With seven overs still available, one felt that he had the platform needed to carry KXIP to a significant total. But Mustafizur then produced one of his classic in-cutters that moved swiftly to go past Marsh's willow and strike his pad.
Moises Henriques showed great composure under the lights to snatch a skier from Naik to afford a second wicket for Rahman, who bowled a very quiet final over, giving away just six runs.
If Mustafizur lead the effort with his piercing accuracy, it was Henriques himself who snatched the life out of the Punjab batting with a double strike in the tenth over. He used bounce to great effect — inducing a thick edge from David Miller for Naman Ojha to complete an airborne catch. Three balls later, it was Rahman's turn to lunge forward and complete a diving catch to help Henriques send Glen Maxwell back to the dugout.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been providing early wickets for Hyderabad and he did so again. He sent back a tentative Murali Vijay off an edge to the keeper in the third over. The fall of that wicket helped Warner bring on Deepak Hooda into the attack. Hooda conceded just two runs in his over, tightening the screws on the visitors. And though Barinder Sran yielded a couple of boundaries in the next over, Warner brought on Rahman for the sixth, a wicket maiden over for Hyderabad, with the run-out of a dangerous looking Manan Vohra.
With the bowling changes paying off so well for Warner, and his bowlers working in tandem like a charm, Kings XI were constantly on the mat. The chase turned out to be a non-event, with Sunrisers putting 65 runs on the board during the PowerPlay. It was the best six-over start this IPL and the target wasn't even intimidating.
Warner got to his 50 off 23 balls and by the time he was dismissed in the 10th over, Sunrisers only needed 54 more for a third straight victory. Even though it was mere formality, the dismissals of Shikhar Dhawan (45) and Eoin Morgan (25) just served to provide some late thrills to an otherwise one-sided match.
The bowlers were the real heroes though, and Mustafizur was their king. Warner was only too aware of their contributions. "The boys bowled superbly to restrict them to a small total which we chased down," explained the captain. "Mustafizur Rahman is a special talent, Bangladesh should be privileged to have him. His change of pace and execution is brilliant."
The top four teams are all at six points, but Hyderabad have played a game extra. So despite three straight victories, there is no room for complacency for the Sunrisers. The team is ticking away nicely and if they continue this run, we could see them go deeper this season than they have ever been in the IPL.