Another night and yet another low total defended successfully by Sunrisers Hyderabad. The Sunrisers bowlers continue their knack of bailing their team out from what might seem improbable situations for other competing sides in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Sunrisers’ bowling spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar delivered a sensational 20th over, giving away just six runs while defending 11 off the final over and six off the last ball, against Royal Challengers Bangalore’s big-hitting all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme.
“That last over comes to mind. Bhuvi was world class,” chirped Sunrisers skipper Kane Williamson at the post-match presentation. As if to have remembered what had preceded the 20th over, the Kiwi was quick to add, “Bhuvi and Sid Kaul have done it for a long period of time, did very well last year, doing well this year.”
While Rashid Khan might be the best T20 bowler in the world and Bhuvneshwar perhaps one of the best death bowlers in white-ball cricket, Siddarth Kaul’s role in Sunrisers' victories this season has been invaluable. Kaul’s consistent performances have enabled the Sunrisers’ bowling attack to choke one opponent after another. His four overs have been the underlying factor of Sunrisers’ success and primarily one of the main reasons the team enjoys being at the top of the heap.
On Monday against a boisterous batting line-up of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Williamson used Kaul for four one-over spells at four different stages of the game.
The pacer first came to the bowling crease to deliver the last over of the powerplay. Then he bowled the 11th over, the 15th and finally the penultimate over of the contest.
The 27-year old bowler was expected to perform a different role every time he came on to roll his arm and at all times he executed his skills to perfection.
Inside the powerplay
6th over: Trying to make optimum use of the fielding restrictions, Virat Kohli advanced down the pitch and whacked Kaul over mid-wicket for a boundary off his first ball. Inspite of being disturbed by the Kohli's charge, the pacer hailing from Punjab came back strongly, allowing only four singles off his next five deliveries.
Using Kaul in the final over of the powerplay allowed Williamson to bring in Rashid after a quiet sixth over, making life simpler for the leg-spinner.
The middle over
12th over: Kaul was brought on to bowl one in the middle overs. With the visitors already on the back foot having lost Kohli and AB de Villiers in successive overs, Sunrisers required to maintain the pressure and not lift their foot off the pedal.
Kaul showed utmost alertness while bowling to Moeen Ali, who was making his IPL debut. Instead of experimenting with his preferred knuckleball, Kaul went quick and held the length back against Ali in a bid to expose his susceptibility against the short ball. Result? Ali was caught behind while playing the pull. RCB lost half their side by the 12th over.
Towards the end
16th over: With 45 runs required off the remaining five overs, the 16th-over mark is the moving phase in a T20 game. Kaul showcased his myriad of variations along with his ability to bowl full and straight. Even after getting their eyes in, Mandeep Singh and De Grandhomme could only muster six singles in the over. The momentum continued to remain with the bowling side.
19th over: The penultimate over of a T20 game is the one that often decides which way the game is heading. De Grandhomme had just launched the world’s best T20 bowler for two sixes in the preceding over. The odds had once again tilted in RCB’s favour with 19 needed off 12 balls. The responsibility on Kaul was to leave Bhuvneshwar with at least 10 runs for him to bowl in the final. The quick bowled four yorkers in the 19th over, conceding just seven runs and sapping away all the momentum that was gained by RCB in the previous over. Bhuvneshwar came and did what he does so well, but its foundation was laid during the penultimate over.
This has been the blueprint for most of Sunrisers' win — using Kaul at various junctures of the match depending upon the situation. In the first and the last situation, the captain is seeking to stem the run flow, while during the middle overs, picking up wickets is the priority. It reflects Kaul's ability on two counts: skill to bowl at different stages of the match and mental readiness to deliver in any situation.
Producing yet another scintillating performance, Kaul gave away just 25 runs off his four overs, conceding just two boundaries in his entire spell. One off his first ball when Kohli was looking to take the attack to Sunrisers, while the other went to the boundary off an inside edge.
While his death bowling stands out, Kaul shows he is multi-dimensional. He can get the old ball to tail in whilst he seems to have no problems bowling with just two fielders outside the circle with the new ball.
He adjusts his line of attack based on the surface, match situation and batsman he is up against. His skills make him hard to negotiate, his steely nerves and brain make him lethal. Kaul is nothing short of a captain’s dream, delivering the goods at any given situation.
The right-arm pacer has been a workhorse for the Hyderabad franchise, having played all games and bowling his complete quota of overs in every match. Even during the absence of strike bowler Bhuvneshwar, he shouldered the responsibility with Sandeep Sharma and Basil Thampi to form a three-pronged fast-bowling attack to help the Orange Army to register wins.
Having given just 7.05 runs an over in the 40 overs Kaul has bowled, he is only behind Jasprit Bumrah (6.92) in terms of economy, while he is joint second highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 13 scalps to his name. The combination makes him the best Sunrisers bowler, but Kaul seems to be happy to play the sidekick to Bhuvneshwar and Rashid.
Kaul bowls in the powerplay, during the middle overs, used as a cover and also at the death. Akin to Williamson being the glue with the bat, Kaul is fulcrum with the ball, allowing bowlers to bowl, and the captain to strategise, around him.