In a tournament governed by momentum, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) shielded a low total for the second time in three days in the most valorous manner.
The same Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) side had ransacked Sunrisers bowlers for 193 runs at Mohali, just a week ago. But on Thursday, they succumbed to the garrison of SRH bowlers, losing by 13 runs while chasing a modest 132 at Hyderabad.
Besides momentum, Sunrisers carried an opulence of self-belief from the game at Wankhede after successfully defending the lowest total on Indian soil in the IPL against defending champions Mumbai Indians.
Nobody better than Rashid Khan, the World's No 1 T20 bowler, embodies self-belief. After being mauled against KXIP and Chennai Super Kings earlier, the 19-year-old backed himself to make a remarkable return that reiterated his class.
In the previous analysis, Rashid’s battering at the hands of Chris Gayle and Suresh Raina — where he conceded 104 runs in the eight overs he bowled — has been discussed in detail.
Regarding the dip in his form, Rashid said,"Jab tak aapko maar nahi padi hai, tab tak aap seekh nahi sakte (You don't learn as a bowler until you are hit for runs),” while addressing the press after the game against Mumbai Indians.
The Punjab side were cruising while chasing with 55 runs for no loss having the dangerous opening duo of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle in the middle. It took a Rashid Khan special to breach the defences of in-form Rahul, which paved the way for the home side to claw back in the game.
Rashid had also stressed about how he went back to his basics and pulled back his lengths after bowling fuller in the matches he had poor returns in, showcasing his adaptability and how quickly the teenager learned from his errors.
Rashid, who snapped up three wickets for 19 runs, was supported well by spin partner Shakib Al Hasan. The Bangladeshi brought in all his experience into the match to pick two important wickets — Mayank Agarwal and Aaron Finch. Shakib and Rashid's combined bowling effort of 7-0-37-5 changed the course of the game.
The pitch had a grass covering which Kings XI pacer Ankit Rajpoot exploited. The 24-year-old extracted extra bounce from the surface troubling the Sunrisers batsmen, as he went on to claim the first five-wicket haul of the season.
The win meant the two teams swapped places on the points table with SRH taking the second spot while KXIP, with the same number of points (10), landing on the third rung, separated by net run rate.
Sunrisers’ journey in IPL 2018 has been fascinating: they began the season with three wins on the trot, making use of a set template of winning the toss and stifling the opposition batsmen to a low score, before their own came and wiped the total off easily. In their fourth and fifth games, their rivals posted formidable totals in the first innings and their batsmen failed to chase it down. Now in the ongoing phase, Hyderabad have ensured whatever score they get on the board, they defend it.
One thing that's common in all their five wins has been their potency with the ball. Sunrisers bowlers have been stellar in dismantling oppositions and earning wins for their side, which has gone a long way in hiding the team's batting weaknesses.
Swing bowler Sandeep Sharma was brought into the side to counter Gayle up front, but he couldn’t make an impact in his opening spell of three overs. However, the 24-year-old showed his variety by bowling a slow cutter and then a knuckleball to outfox Manjoy Tiwary and Andrew Tye in one over.
Yorker specialist and last year’s emerging player of the IPL, Basil Thampi, first bounced out Gayle and then provided the finishing blow with the final wicket of Rajpoot, capping another combined bowling display by the Orange Army.
Sunrisers captain Kane Williamson missed out with the bat, but his astute reading of the game, along with the idea of constantly rotating his bowlers around, worked wonders for his side. Rashid first got the ball in the 8th over of the innings and bowled his last over in the 18th, yielding wickets in both. Calling Sandeep Sharma back for the 16th over also turned out to be well-thought out punt.
In hindsight, Manish Pandey’s half-century earlier in the game — a knock low on fluency, but high on effectiveness — was eventually decisive in the context of the tie. On a difficult surface, his hand guided SRH past 130 giving just about enough for the Sunrisers bowlers to dazzle once again.