When an unbridled Rishabh Pant entered in what qualifies as batting trance, belting 128 out of Delhi Daredevils’ total of 187, the target looked beyond Sunrisers Hyderabad. Their only two losses this season had come while chasing scores in excess of 180.
The fact that Twenty 20 (T20) is a format often governed by momentum was also in home side’s favour at the Feroz Shah Kotla after Pant walloped 26 runs off the last five balls of Delhi’s innings.
To further degenerate Sunrisers’ confidence was the fact that their strike bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar — who gave six runs while defending 12 in his final over in the previous game — was first reverse scooped to third man boundary and then slammed for a one-handed six over long on.
Pant’s enigmatic innings could have easily bewitched Sunrisers’ players and the Orange Army could have lost the game in trying to do all kinds of things during the chase and not a lot would have been held against them as well.
Often while chasing tall targets, the team batting second, in order to get off to a rapid start, plays extravagant shots, trying to match up their opponents while failing miserably in the process.
Instead, Sunrisers stuck to their basics, relied on their approach and showed tenancy in chase even after losing their in-form opener Alex Hales early. The panic button wasn't pressed.
No one typified composure better than Sunrisers skipper Kane Williamson and senior statesman Shikhar Dhawan, who returned to form after a string of ordinary outings. The duo helped SRH breeze home with seven balls to spare and nine wickets in hand.
Dhawan and Williamson forged an unbeaten 176-run stand — the highest SRH partnership for any wicket — and thereby helped their team to become the first to seal a playoff spot in IPL 2018. What the nine-wicket victory also does is that it dismisses doubts over their batting frailties.
A key element of the Sunrisers' chase was that they never let the scoreboard pressure come into play.
Only a single over, the one after Hales’ wicket, went boundary-less in the second innings.
The Hyderabad innings consisted of only 25 dot balls and since the end of the first over their batsmen didn’t allow their rivals to bowl more than two dot balls in a line together.
It reflects how expertly Dhawan and Williamson found gaps, maneuvered strike and broke down the target of 188 one run at a time, similar to their team’s approach in reaching the playoffs by dismantling opponents one team at a time as their means of achieving their desired goal varied according to the conditions and their opposition.
On a day their bowlers ran into an unstoppable force in the form of Rishabh Pant, the batsmen delivered. Truth be told, it was one of the better surfaces Sunrisers got to bat on in some time.
Several times during the post-match presentations, Williamson has spoken out about the tough batting surfaces they have played on and hence they were involved in a lot of low-scoring games. But another word that the Kiwi cricketer keeps repeating is ‘adaptable’. He stressed on how his players have adapted to the various pitches and made the most of it. The same was the case on Thursday as local boy Dhawan found his stride at Kotla and his return to form augurs well for the Sunrisers.
With Dhawan back among runs, it also means Sunrisers have a left-hander at the top of the order with right-handers Hales, Williamson and Manish Pandey slated around him in the batting order.
The left-right combination works the best against spinners, with Nadeem and right leg-spinner Amit Mishra in Delhi ranks, Dhawan countered them with ease on Thursday.
With three games still to go before the playoffs, the Sunrisers do not have many areas of concern, leaving only the misfiring middle order, Pandey in particular, to be tested.