If you switched off your television sets early thinking 119 was too drab a target by T20 standards that would lock up your attention and chose to enjoy a peaceful sleep after a hardworking Tuesday, you are in for a nightmare on Wednesday morning, to find out the eventual result of the home side, Mumbai Indians, losing by a wide berth of 31 runs against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
After winning their first three games of IPL 11, Sunrisers were all but on their way to register their third loss after being bowled out in 18.4 overs for mere 118, in their return leg at Wankhede, a venue where they had all lost all their previous three encounters.
However, in a stunning turn of events, the Kane Williamson-led side pulled off a combined bowling heist to defend the lowest score in IPL history on Indian soil.
The wonderful and wily Williamson
This was the first occasion in this year’s tournament when Sunrisers were batting first and after how things unravelled with the bat, the mood in Sunrisers camp at that point would have been glum. Players could have easily worn long faces with their shoulders drooping and as a synergy effect, a general sense of disappointment could have transpired. Although, if anyone who believed they could get something out of the game was their captain Williamson.
The Kiwi was at his energetic best in the field, running around from mid on to cover to mid off to mid wicket almost every other ball with MI’s left-right combination at the top of the order made it mandatory for him to move positions continuously. When Siddharth Kaul was having some issues with his run-up, especially in his final stride, Williamson almost on cue picked some sand from the pile kept near the bowler’s running mark and placed it at Kaul’s landing point.
Williamson belongs to a rare breed of players who despite creating wonders in a match would be happy to remain sagely aloof from wild celebrations, theatrics and the headlines.
He is not someone one who would constantly be on the run and nag his bowlers, but someone who would allow his troops the freedom to express themselves. Perhaps he was just doing that, but despite defending a low score, he had an admirable spunk visible in his gait on the field. The usually sedate Williamson was slightly more animated during the conferences he held with the bowlers at the beginning of their spells.
He maintained a fearless approach throughout the second half. Be it with tossing the ball to Afghanistan’s Mohammed Nabi – who was playing his first match of this season – to bowl the second over, or asking left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan to have a go at Rohit Sharma in the last over of the Powerplay or persisting with a slip for almost the entire game or attacking Kieron Pollard when walked out to bat with a short-leg, all seemed to have worked for the visiting side.(Reminder, Sunrisers were defending less than run-a-ball at the start of the innings).
Mumbai's Ishan Kishan, who has been in good form fell to Nabi for zero, while Mumbai skipper Rohit and the dangerous Pollard both were caught at slip by Shikhar Dhawan for 2 and 9 respectively.
Dhawan almost claimed his third catch later in the game while fielding at a wide third slip when he got a hand to an edge from Jasprit Bumrah, possibly the only flaw in Sunrisers spotless performance in the second innings, but again when the fielder was specifically placed in a particular position spoke how the bowlers and the fielders were in sync with their captain’s plan.
Even otherwise, Williamson was focused on minute details too. With him positioned at covers, he was able to make a sound call while making optimum use of the referral system against Krunal Pandya, the wicket that perhaps change the course of the match in their favour.
Holding all his cards close to himself, the 27-year old rotated his bowlers so efficiently that none of his bowlers had completed their quota until the 17th over was bowled, leaving him with multiple options and keeping the opposition guessing.
Williamson’s immaculate bowling changes saw him hold his spin-wizard Rashid Khan till the ninth over, whilst the 15th over of the innings was Basil Thampi’s first over of the evening.
Rashid ended up winning the Man of the Match after a tremendous display with the ball snapping two wickets for just 11 runs in his four overs that included a maiden – in the 17th over while defending 118.
Thampi, too, bagged couple of wickets that comprised the key wicket of Suryakumar Yadav, who was the top-scorer of the game, and in the end, he dismissed Mustafizur Rahman to complete a famous win.
The Sunrisers bowlers responded remarkably to his proactive captaincy and humble to a fault leader gave all the credit to his players by saying, “The best part of it (win) was how the guys were engaged in the second half,” in his post-match address.
No Bhuvi, No Billy...No problem
With Billy Stanlake flown back to Australia and Bhuvneshwar Kumar ruled out of the encounter, the entire bowling unit as collective stood up to fill in for their loss.
Not the first time Sunrisers bowlers have bailed their team out from improbable situations, in fact it feels like the bowlers seem to find their mojo when they are defending a low total.
Sandeep Sharma began the proceedings by drawing the first blood after removing Evin Lewis and then every other bowler joining the party.
Does Rashid have the heart to return after he was plundered in the last two games, was a question that concerned not only his bowlers, his team or Afghanistan but perhaps the entire cricketing world.
“I learned a lot of things and had a good chat with the coaching staff - Moody (Tom Moody), Murali (Muttiah Muralidharan), Laxman (VVS Laxman) - and I just relaxed and enjoyed myself. And it brought me success. Murali told that whatever happens, you have to be relaxed and be calm and do the basics right. This game is all about enjoyment. Credit to how the management have kept us whether we win or lose,” said the 19-year old after winning his Man of the Match award.
The Afghan made an astounding return after the hiding he received his previous two games, going for 55 runs against Kings XI Punjab and then conceding 49 against Chennai Super Kings. On both occasions, it was mainly couple of left-handed batsmen that got the better of the leg-spinner with Chris Gayle (KXIP) and Suresh Raina (CSK) tearing him apart.
So, to trap Krunal leg before wicket on the back leg, would help him restore belief in himself.
Another bowler who was at his confident best was Kaul, who finished with magnificent figures of three wickets for 23 runs. Carrying his good run from the domestic circuit, Kaul has been highly consistent in the IPL as well. He bowled fast, full and straight mixing it with the deceptive knuckleball.
Batting woes continue to hurt Hyderabad
Albeit the remarkable victory was achieved when the Sunrisers bowlers covered for their shortcoming with the bat. The team is yet to have a complete performance since their first game against Rajasthan Royals. Even Williamson made no qualms about it when he said, “Without a doubt we were expecting a lot more from ourselves with the bat. Once again, we haven't been able to put a collective performance together.”
Though he might be sporting the orange cap with a lot of elan, but how he would love to have some support from one of the top four in the upcoming games. With the next contest being on Thursday against KXIP, one of the most threatening batting units, they barely have the time to address their misfiring middle order. Somebody needs to put their hand up and take the responsibility or the Punjab side promises to steamroll them once again.