In a contest that was dominated in phases by both sides, the home team, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), eventually fell short by four runs to Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) target of 182.
Sunrisers took their foot off the pedal at key stages of the game and lost small battles with tiny margins, including an umpiring blunder that went against the hosts, which ultimately saw them drop two important points at Hyderabad.
Sunrisers’ reliable prototype to win games in the IPL has been: win the toss and bowl first, choke opposing teams to a sub-par total and then chase it down with relative ease.
SRH captain Kane Williamson once again called it right at the toss – four times out of five – and opted to field first.
To set their plan in motion, SRH bowlers tied the CSK batsmen down as they could only manage 27 runs off the first six overs having lost the crucial wicket of Shane Watson. It was the lowest score scored by any team in the Powerplay in this year’s IPL. At the end of 10 overs, CSK could wriggle to 54 for 2, setting the lowest score this season at the halfway stage.
However, instead of SRH tightening the noose, the momentum shifted in CSK's favour for the remaining 10 overs.
Known for bowling with the new ball and at the death, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was strangely brought on to bowl in the 10th over, his third over of the game.
It was difficult to understand the rationale behind the move, with the only plausible explanation being that SRH were trying to use up Kumar's overs before MS Dhoni came out to bat. Dhoni has held the edge over the pacer in a one on one battle earlier, but the bowler didn’t bowl any time after the 10th as it turned out to be his last over. (Dhoni came out to bat in the 17th over)
The partnership between Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina was worth only nine runs at the start of Kumar's over, so there was no real reason to bring Kumar in and break the partnership.
Sunrisers strike bowler leaked 13 runs off his over which opened the floodgates for Chennai’s onslaught as Rayudu and Raina forged a 112-run stand for the third wicket before Dhoni added the finishing touch.
Even the guile and trickery of Rashid Khan was blunted by CSK batsmen, the left-hander Raina, in particular, was severe on the bowler. After Kings XI Punjab's Chris Gayle caning the leggie in the previous game when he leaked 55 runs off his four overs, Rashid leaked 49 runs from his quota of four overs against Chennai.
If the previous two games are anything to go by, it seems like the teams have worked out a counter against the World number 1 T20 bowler. It is still too early to say, but it might well play on the 19-year old's mind.
CSK plundered 128 runs in their second half of the innings, finishing with a strong 182 off their 20 overs.
With Shikhar Dhawan missing out due to an injury, the task for SRH’s depleted batting looked all the more daunting.
Dhawan’s ouster forced few changes in the batting order with debutant Ricky Bhui accompanying Williamson at the top.
SRH got off to a poor start with Deepak Chahar removing Bhui, Manish Pandey and Deepak Hooda in his opening burst, with the SRH scoreboard reading a rather glum 22/3. While Bhui, Manish Pandey returned with a big blob against their names, Deepak Hooda managed to get a run.
In Dhawan’s absence, the onus was on Pandey to take up the responsibility as the senior Indian batsman and steer his team towards the target. But instead, the 28-year old charged down the wicket facing his second delivery, and with minimal feet movement, he threw his hands at a wide delivery getting a thick edge to third man.
Pandey’s irresponsibility and lack of fluency have raised several questions over his batting and more so on the thinking process of Sunrisers at the auction table.
Sunrisers' batting frailties were once again exposed and at 40 for 3 at the end of the powerplay, the defeat looked inevitable.
It took a Williamson special – who opted for a more proactive approach from the previous game – to launch an attack on CSK spinners. With Yusuf Pathan unfurling the big shots from the other end, it lifted some pressure off his captain and revived a hope for a late win.
Battling hamstring pain, Pathan relied on his muscular prowess to send the ball across or over the boundary, but an umpiring blunder in the 17th over hampered their run chase.
The second ball off the 17th over bowled by Shardul Thakur was clearly above batsman Williamson’s waist, but was not called a no-ball. Williamson pulled the high ball from his chest onto the onside for a single.
As he ambled across for a run, he wore a perplexed and later a shocked expression when the leg umpire Vineet Kulkarni did not extend his arm to signal it as a no-ball. The following delivery, which would have been a free-hit had the umpire called it right, was tonked for a six by Pathan. With 40 required off 23 deliveries, the loss of a run and an extra ball turned out to be crucial. As a result, SRH lost the match off the last ball with Williamson and Pathan both dismissed in the space of four balls off each other.
After three wins on the bounce, SRH have suffered two straight defeats. Before they play at Wankhede against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday, the Hyderabad side will need to address several issues with the form of two of their key players in Rashid and Pandey. Even Hooda needs to fire with the bat. SRH are still searching for the right balance with entire batting order going through a massive overhaul. There needs to be more clarity over Shakib Al Hasan and Hooda’s roles as batsmen and their positions could help SRH find balance.
A T20 fixture doesn’t provide a luxury for a fixed position, especially in the middle order, but to dabble with the batting order in every game could add on to the complexities during a chase.
With Dhawan expected to be fit for the clash against defending champions Mumbai Indians, their batting order is expected to have a more settled look.
There is a desperate need for a big-hitter to bolster their batting during the final overs. Rashid showed that he can use the long handle while scoring 17 off 4 balls and made a case for SRH to use his all-round skills if a situation does arise he can be used as a pinch-hitter too.