In a bid to obtain a direct pass to the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 final, all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite’s expensive, perhaps game-changing, 18th over with the ball doused the fiery innings he played with the bat in the first innings.
The Barbadian’s 29-ball 43 lifted Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) from a precarious 88 for 6 after 15 overs to 139 for 7 by the time innings came to a close against Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Giving the Sunrisers bowlers, who have been the best in defending totals in the tournament, a par total to bowl at.
Sunrisers had the match well in control when they had reduced the Super Kings to 62 for 6, requiring 79 off 45 balls, the situation got worse for MS Dhoni-led side required 43 from last 18 deliveries, with opener Faf du Plessis the only recognised batsman fighting it out.
With one over up Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Siddarth Kaul’s sleeves, Sunrisers skipper Kane Williamson had to make a choice between Shakib Al Hasan, Sandeep Sharma and Brathwaite — playing his second game of the competition — to bowl the important 18th over.
Williamson chose pace over spin and the seamer, with more international experience, was handed the ball. The West Indian’s over turned out to be decisive as he was taken for 20 runs by du Plessis, bringing down the target to 23 off 12.
CSK's plan to take the game deep worked wonderfully for them as they secured a seventh IPL final in nine attempts.
“It’s nice to contribute since I haven’t played much. Yesterday, I was just reflecting on my past games and took some confidence from that mentally. I just entered the changing room now and asked the boys ‘how did we win this, guys?’ Sometimes the game seems out of reach, but you keep sticking in,” said 'Man of the Match' du Plessis.
By taking the game deep, they gave themselves a chance and got lucky as number 10 batsman Shardul Thakur got a couple of streaky boundaries via the outside and the inside edges of the bat off the first two balls off the penultimate over.
It was a toss-up between Bhuvneshwar and Kaul to bowl the 19th over. Having bowled a splendid 17th over, giving away just four runs, Kaul got the nod.
Previously in the tournament, he had bowled the important 19th over three times. He had given all but 21 runs out of the three overs that he bowled earlier. With some misfortune and couple of good hits, he had leaked 17 runs off his last over. Bhuvneshwar was left with six runs off the final over and it took du Plessis just one ball to sent the ball flying over the boundary ropes to cap off a spectacular win.
However, it wasn’t the Sunrisers bowlers that let the team down, Williamson rued their batting performance saying, “We were short with the bat, and it was actually a decent surface. We would've wanted 20 more. The game did swing our way, and bowlers were outstanding, but we didn't quite execute it like in the past,” once again highlighting side’s middle-order batting concerns.
It is becoming a familiar tale to see the SRH's middle order fail
That Sunrisers' death bowling not going according to the plan may serve as an anomaly, but their batting woes have been regularly exposed. Having lost Dhawan off the first ball of the match meant the pressure of scoring big was again on the shoulders of Williamson. After he fell for 22, gloving one down the leg side, the responsibility was on the middle order to fire. Pandey and Shakib fell cheaply while Pathan tried to get going before he was brilliantly caught by Dwayne Bravo off his bowling.
The lack of batting muscle is not something Sunrisers have to grapple recently. Pandey, their 11-crore draw, has struggled throughout the season, despite scoring three half-centuries. Shakib not being able to convert his starts has only added to their misery. Batting at key positions of 4 and 5, the team would want more, be it finishing the innings or chasing down totals. At some point in the tournament, the law of averages would catch up against the likes of Williamson.
Sunrisers think tank missed an opportunity of sending Rashid ahead of Bhuvneshwar in the batting order. The Afghan’s unorthodox strokeplay would have come handy towards the end to get some quick runs.
Sunrisers idea of beefing up the bowling department won them a lot of accolades because the bowlers made them look pretty. However, it also meant the Hyderabad franchise missed out on adding batting strength to their squad. With no real replacement or backup options available, the inconsistency of the middle order continues to haunt them.
The Orange Army will have another chance to make it to the finals when they will play the second qualifier at the Eden Gardens this Friday, but unless they are able to solve the middle-order muddle, the team will continue to struggle or perhaps be dependent on the top-order. The loss to Super Kings was the fourth straight defeat for Sunrisers. None of those losses have led to their ouster, but now they just a punch away from being knocked out in a season where they finished top of the table.