Regardless of winning their first three games of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018, the question that hovered over Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) was whether their batting line up had enough strength to chase down a large total?
On the basis of Thursday’s performance, when they capitulated after being confronted with a target of 194 against the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), the answer turns out to be a clear negative.
Chasing the target of 194, the Hyderabad side lacked batting firepower, especially in the middle order, leaving them 15 runs short of KXIP's first innings score.
The Orange Army faced a major setback at the start of their innings with Shikhar Dhawan leaving the field retired hurt, after taking a knock on his left elbow in the first over off Barinder Sran’s bowling, dousing their hopes of a win to a large extent.
Credit to KXIP captain, Ravichandran Ashwin for changing the norm at the toss and becoming the first captain in this edition by opting to bat first.
Punting on their strength, the home side racked up 193 runs off their 20 overs riding on Chris Gayle’s exploits as the Jamaican batsman smashed his sixth IPL century – the first of this season – setting up a tall chase for SRH, which the visitors failed that brought an end to their winning run.
No muscle in the middle
Despite losing early wickets, the major issue for SRH lied in the fact that the side never even remotely looked like threatening to close in on the total. The batsmen failed to grab the game by the scruff of its neck.
By the time the last ball off the 20th over of SRH's innings was bowled, they had six wickets in hand (with Dhawan injured) and Manish Pandey, who had come to the crease with one over powerplay still left, remained unbeaten on 57 off 42 balls at a strike rate of 135.71.
Pandey had come in at number five with the team requiring 157 runs off 15 overs, that is, 10.46 runs an over. However, the batsman on whom SRH paid a hefty sum of Rs 11 Crore, could find the fence only four times in his innings.
Albeit, it wasn’t just that Pandey, who couldn’t score freely, captain Kane Williamson too struggled to break free as he perished after scoring 54 for which he gobbled up 41 deliveries.
The duo shared a 76-run stand but utilised 56 balls for it, raising questions on their lackluster approach to scale down a total. None of the two batsmen took up the mantle to increase the scoring rate as they struggled to find boundaries, thereby hampering the run chase.
Yusuf Pathan might still boast of broad shoulders, but there is only up to a certain amount of weight the ageing batsman can carry. Promoted at number four, the 35-year old was expected to make the most of the fielding restrictions, but he dragged a slower delivery from Mohit Sharma back on to his own stumps to fall after a 13-ball 19.
Pathan, who is considered well past his prime, can play the cameo innings like the one he played against Kolkata Knight Riders providing the finishing touches, but to think he can shoulder an entire chase would be inane.
Leaving it too late for Shakib
There is no lack of tactical nous in the Hyderabad dugout, but it was very surprising to see the Hyderabad side missing a trick by holding back Shakib Al Hasan for far too long as the Bangladeshi all-rounder made his way to the centre when the match was all but slipped out of their grasps needing 60 runs from 18 deliveries.
Walking in at number seven, Shakib did strike a couple of sixes in the final over and remained unbeaten on 24 off 12 balls at the end of the innings. He could have batted higher up the order and he makes for a better fit at number 4 or 5. In addition to his ability to clobber the ball long, Shakib provides his side with the option of a left and right combination.
As much as a surprise was Ashwin’s decision to bat first at the toss, many eyebrows were raised when Williamson announced Chris Jordan was replacing the in-form Billy Stanlake in their team’s line up.
Stanlake was their Man of the Match in the previous game and already having bagged five wickets in the tournament he was left out of the playing XI without any mention of an injury or a niggle.
Other teams will take a cue from the Punjab side in order to expose the Sunrisers’ batting. The Hyderabad side must look for cover, they can avail services of Carlos Brathwaite or Mohammad Nabi at some stage to give them an option of a big-hitting all-rounder that would instill some vigour in the line-up.