David Warner was the enfant terrible of international cricket in the not too distant past. He was the kind of cricketer, who found it difficult to traverse 22 yards without having to offend an entire nation. But watching him lead the Sunrisers this season with one forceful performance after another must have finally made even the man’s mother proud. Warner produced an epic 93* last night to carry the Sunrisers Hyderabad through to the Indian Premier League (IPL) finals on the sheer breadth of his shoulders and an unyielding determination to eke out triumph from the desperate corridors of defeat.
We have witnessed some epochal efforts this season — AB de Villiers defying death against the Gujarat Lions on Monday and Virat Kohli working his way to a sedate half century to lead the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) into the playoffs against Delhi Daredevils stand out for the gravity of those acts. Warner matched those heroics with an act of his own that is destined for the IPL hall of fame.
Fielding first upon winning the toss, the Sunrisers had done well to restrict the potent batting lineup of the Gujarat Lions. They were 139-6 at the end of the 18th over, despite Hyderabad missing the services of Mustafizur Rahman, clearly the best bowler this season.
Trent Boult, playing competitive cricket for the first time since February, was taken apart by Dwayne Bravo to add 15 valuable runs to the Lions total in the 19th over. As usual Bhuvneshwar Kumar came to bowl the final over, broke Bravo’s stumps to keep the target to 163. The Lions score was courtesy a timely fifty, his fifth of the season, by a belligerent Aaron Finch.
Even though Warner lost Shikhar Dhawan to a direct hit in the second over and Moises Henriques to a lazy shot in the fifth, the Sunrisers had no reason to panic. The team from Hyderabad were set for a comfortable chase at 61-2 at the end of the eighth over, with Yuvraj Singh keeping company with Warner.
Unfortunately though, the middle order lacked commitment yet again. Three wickets fell quickly as they melted down to 84-5 midway through the 13th over. Naman Ojha helped Warner add 33 runs before departing in the 16th over after making just 10 runs.
Sunrisers were up against the wall at this point, still needing 46 runs off 25 balls. Given the occasion, it was a big task with just four wickets to play with.
It needed some conviction and that is exactly what Bipul Sharma offered. The young all-rounder showed how it's done, playing with intelligence and purpose turning into an ideal ally for his determined captain. Sharma’s 11-ball 27 was an invaluable effort under a situation of considerable strain.
It was Warner’s single-handed effort that kept the Sunrisers in the hunt. The Aussie kept punching the Lions in a dogged effort that spoke volumes of his determination to see the Sunrisers through to the end. And he did just that and more, scoring his eighth fifty of a prolific season.
None of those fifties was as valuable as this one that came at Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday. It was a resolute effort from a man committed to lead his team by example. Given a history of under performance by the middle order, the Sunrisers will hope for one last cameo from Warner.
It should also help that Sunrisers managed to hold off the Lions, despite losing Mustafizur to a hamstring injury. It remains to be seen if they are able to bring him back for the final on Sunday. The Royal Challengers will be more than a handful for the Sunrisers on Sunday, led by Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
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Updated Date: May 28, 2016 22:20:31 IST