He sensed that the cricket ball would drop short and rocked back to play the pull. But without any notice, the ball also stayed lower than he expected to. The manner in which Manish Pandey adjusted the downswing of the bat and connected with the ball with the sweet spot was enough to show that Manish Pandey meant business.
The seven-wicket defeat by Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League game at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Saturday could mean that the Sunrisers Hyderabad will have to win two of their remaining three games to be assured of a spot in the Playoffs. Jonny Bairstow’s return to England could not have come at a worse time for the Sunrisers.
Yet, Pandey showed himself as ready to step up the plate and willing take responsibility on his shoulders on a pitch that required the batsmen to cope with a slower pace than usual. From the first ball that left-handed David Warner received, it was clear that shot-selection was going to be of uttermost importance.
It was in this area that Pandey’s temperament shone through. He picked the deliveries to hit to the boundary with perfection and was content to work the ball around off the other deliveries. As long as he batted with Warner, Sunrisers Hyderabad innings seemed on cruise control, more so with Warner content to rotate the strike to Pandey.
And while he did well to fill the breach caused by skipper Kane Williamson’s departure, scoring more than two-thirds of the 93 runs that the team added during his stay at the wicket, Pandey fell at a most inopportune time for his side. Warner had been dismissed by Steve Smith’s brilliant running catch.
Sunrisers Hyderabad collapsed from 121 for two to 147 for eight, Pandey’s fall to a faint edge to the wicket-keeper Sanju Samson off leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal sparking it. It was an unholy procession of batsmen to and from the middle that would have seen the visitors’ worst fears about their middle-order batting come true.
Even as he was walking away, Pandey would have known that his side could crumble if Deepak Hooda did not stay on till the end. In the event, Hooda fell to the first ball he played. Vijay Shankar was out for a single-digit score for the fourth time in five innings while left-handed Shakib Al Hasan, batting in a game after more than a month, was searching for timing.
Rajasthan Royals bowlers exploited the sluggish nature of the pitch that even the best batsmen would take time to get used to. It was for this reason alone that Pandey will have wished that he had batted through the Sunrisers Hyderabad innings. He was the one visiting batsman who had read the pace of the pitch well and should really have stayed on longer.
He had already scored 18 runs off the leg-spinner, including a pull in which he had to adjust his shot to low bounce, and was looking to add some more off the very last ball that his state-mate was bowling in the game. His exit could spark some debate among the umpiring fraternity since he was ruled out caught behind after an appeal for stumping was referred to the TV umpire.
Law 31.4 read: “An appeal ‘How’s That?’ covers all ways of being out.’ However, Law 31.5 reads: “The striker’s end umpire shall answer all appeals arising out of any of Laws 35 (Hit wicket), 39 (Stumped) or 38 (Run out) when this occurs at the wicket-keeper’s end. The bowler’s end umpire shall answer all other appeals. When an appeal is made, each umpire shall answer on any matter that falls within his/her jurisdiction.”
This could lead to the question if a TV umpire can adjudicate a decision that has not been asked for by umpire at the striker's end? Be that as it may, Pandey’s 36-ball knock had come to an end, his eagerness to stay on top of the leg-spinner leading to his downfall, the top-spinner’s extra bounce doing him (and, eventually, his team) in.
The unseemly collapse appeared to rankle the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers so much that they did not notice that Rajasthan Royals had used change of pace as a primary weapon to engineer dismissals. The lengths that Jaydev Unadkat, Oshane Thomas and even Varun Aaron bowled were quite overlooked by the visiting bowlers and Rajasthan Royals were able to push on to victory.
And, as they moved from Jaipur to host Kings XI Punjab in what has acquired the dimensions of a knockout game before the Playoffs, Sunrisers Hyderabad were left looking for a straw to clutch.
Pandey’s refreshing freedom in the second successive game upon return from the bench did come as a breath of fresh air for a side that was missing Jonny Bairstow.
It has been that a poor season for Sunrisers Hyderabad’s middle-order batsmen. While Warner (611 runs) and Bairstow (445) have kept the team in the hunt, none of the other batsmen – not even Manish Pandey, him with two successive half-centuries – have scored 200 runs. Pandey will have to steel himself and score a few more runs along with Warner in the end of the league.
The good thing is that he can do this. And if he can sustain the purple patch through the next few matches, Sunrisers Hyderabad fans will surely shower their adulatory attention on him.