David Warner got the man of the match award for blazing a half-century at a strike rate of 200, Chennai Super Kings leg-spinner Imran Tahir battled hard to tilt the balance towards his team in the Indian Premier League game on Wednesday. Yet, it was Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Rashid Khan who stole everyone else’s thunder with a decisive performance with the cricket ball.
As one of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s many precious assets, Rashid Khan led the powerful bowling unit as it stopped Chennai Super Kings way short of a par score after they opted to take first strike.
Thus far this season, he has not picked up as many wickets as he would have liked while being very economical. A two-wicket haul would have pleased him no end.
Of course, he has been on top of his craft and batsmen have played him watchfully and with respect. It appeared as if they were reading him a lot better than in the last season when he claimed a whopping 21 wickets in steering Sunrisers Hyderabad to the final. He has learnt to bide his time, embracing accuracy and control to test the batsmen’s skills.
It was his patient, seemingly unaffected, response to the lower returns that shimmered through his display on Wednesday. It was the hallmark of a class player, one who does not lose one’s craft because the rivals appeared to have got a hang of his bag of tricks. It was in employing the simple stuff that the young spinner showed a wise head on his shoulders.
If he had any temptation to use a richer range of variations to test the batsmen, he did not exhibit in when charged with the task of bowling to quality batsmen in the Chennai Super Kings line-up.
He did not let boundary hits by Watson and Suresh Raina change his belief in the basic variations at his disposal, making the batsman play every delivery.
There is no question that the Hyderabad franchise will be relieved that they kept a date with victory after their batsmen appeared to lose their way around in the last few games. It was a command bowling show that ensured the batsmen would not have to skate on dangerously thin ice, with Rashid Khan emerging as the standout bowler on Wednesday.
To be sure, every Sunrisers Hyderabad bowler did what was expected of him. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and left-arm paceman Khaleel Ahmed kept the visiting openers Shave Watson and Faf du Plessis quiet for the first four overs For a while, when du Plessis and Watson got going, it seemed that the visitors would eventually challenge the home batsmen to chase a big target.
It needed left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem to prise out Watson with a piece of smart bowling to end the bristling Chennai Super Kings opening partnership in the 10th over. Vijay Shankar generated extra bounce to dismiss du Plessis in the following over and send the visitors’ innings on a downward spiral.
With new batsmen at the crease, Rashid Khan returned to bowl what became the most memorable over of the match from a bowler’s perspective. He first beat left-handed Suresh Raina’s attempt to pull with a delivery that held its line and then Kedar Jadhav’s defensive prod with a wrong one to gain leg before verdicts from the umpire.
The calming presence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni was conspicuous by its absence as he sat out of the match between two sides owned by Chennai corporates. The visitors meandered to 132 for five, making just 52 runs in the 10 overs to the end. It was more due to circumspection and not because the track altered its nature that Chennai Super Kings finished way below par.
There were still some doubts if the Sunrisers Hyderabad batsmen would leave the nightmare of their behind, especially after David Warner went back to the dugout. But Jonny Bairstow stayed on till the finish despite losing the company of Kane Williamson, Vijay Shankar and Deepak Hooda. He showed the maturity needed to steer the team home.
It was interesting to watch the two batsmen embrace different approaches. It must be said it served the side well – with Warner going back to attack mode after his watchful batting in the previous game proved counter-productive and with Bairstow willingly playing a knock that held the innings together.
It was the kind of all-round performance that Sunrisers Hyderabad needed to get their campaign back on track after having lost two successive home games to Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals which sandwiched a defeat by Kings XI Punjab in Mohali. It was the manner of dominance that will reinstall confidence within the Sunrisers Hyderabad ranks.
Sunrisers Hyderabad fans, at their wit’s end and silenced when the team ended up on the losing side in three successive games, will find their voice again. Yet, as they resume their journey towards the playoff stage, it is evident that they will need all their batsmen to come to the party rather than just depend on the opening pair.
For all that, on Wednesday night, there was evidence that leg-spinner Rashid Khan’s bagful of tricks was intact. By not letting his mind be affected by the lack of high returns for his investment in basics, he showcased the importance of adapting to the challenges and, more importantly, of chipping away patiently.