The Chinnaswamy surface once again yielded a bounteous harvest for the batsmen in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s final home game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Knocking down one barrier each game at a time in this Indian Premier League (IPL), the Sunrisers breached the 200-run hurdle as Skipper Kane Williamson led his team to the doorstep of an incredible victory. However, he fell off the first ball of the final over, from Mohammed Siraj, with 20 needed. They ended up with 204 for 3, going down by 14 runs and unable to close the door on the RCB.
Sunrisers, already confirmed a berth in the top two for the playoffs, would like to chalk this batting display down as a marker for the upcoming matches that matter.
Williamson did what he does best by manipulating the field with his superlative strokeplay to extend his exceptional run with the bat. He notched his 8th IPL half-century and became the second batsman to go past 600 runs this season. The Black Caps captain ensured his team remained on course for a record run chase, but couldn't get much of a strike in the final overs.
From the start of 15th over to the first ball of the 20th over, the one he got out to, Williamson took strike for just eight deliveries compared to his partner Manish Pandey facing 22 balls. With the in-form player not able to garner strike, it cost the Sunrisers dearly. However, that led to an opportunity, almost forcibly, for Pandey to take up the mantle and the batsman had to hit out in order to meet the daunting requirement of the asking rate.
The biggest gain from the loss against RCB was to see Pandey return among runs. Pandey, who hasn’t had smooth sailing in the tournament, smashed 62 off 38 balls and played his part in the 67-ball 135-run partnership for the third wicket with Williamson.
The 28-year old grappled in the start off his innings procuring just 6 runs off the 12 balls he faced, something that is considered unacceptable when the target at the start of the innings is almost 11 runs an over. He was able to break the shackles in the 15th over when he blasted a couple of fours and a six off Colin de Grandhomme.
Despite Pandey’s timely half-century, he missed out on numerous scoring opportunities while attempting some funky and unconventional shots. He tried to play the back-of-the-bat scoop and failed a couple of times. He shouldered arms to a wide yorker almost kissing the tramline off Tim Southee in the penultimate over. That was a costly error in judgment. In the final over too, Pandey couldn’t get bat on ball on a knee-high full toss, as Sunrisers could only manage six when 20 runs were needed.
There is still a lot left to be desired when it comes to Pandey’s finishing skills. The role of the finisher might still require the services of Shakib Al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan.
Albeit, in the grander scheme of things with Shikhar Dhawan returning to form, along with opening partner Alex Hales being able to provide starts, Pandey was the only frontline batsman for Sunrisers that looked out of sorts. This innings will boost the morale of Pandey as well as the entire team, helping Sunrisers solve their middle order muddle to a considerable extent. Pandey's return to form will take a significant amount of burden off Williamson, who has had to double up as an anchor and a finisher during an innings. In addition, it provides Williamson much-needed freedom while batting knowing there is still some batting depth left after him.
Important for the Sunrisers not to lose sight of the larger picture as they have just one game before they get into the playoffs. Just when Sunrisers’ batting started to click, their bowling, which has been their strength seems to have dipped.
However, it is important to note, the surfaces on which the team has played. Apart from last three games, including the Bangalore fixture, Sunrisers have played on surfaces that weren’t exactly batting friendly and their bowlers delivered on those pitches.
There might be few minor concerns over their bowling going by the recent performances, but one thing that Sunrisers have done consistently in this IPL is they have delivered whenever there has been a cloud over a certain aspect of their game. Be it with Williamson’s emergence with the bat and as a captain in David Warner’s absence. Bowling depth shown after losing Billy Stanlake and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to injuries or be it with chasing in excess of 180, Sunrisers have answered with much aplomb. Safe to assume the team will continue to address what’s necessary before the playoffs begin.