The league phase of the Indian Premier League is set for a thrilling finish this weekend. There are six teams still in the fray and such is the quirk of the tournament that even table topping Sunrisers Hyderabad are far from secure. Sunrisers did have an opportunity to seal their spot on Friday, but a Karun Nair special stole a march off the last ball and left the suspense intact for the weekend.
There are four games left this weekend, with and six teams are vying for four play-off spots. The only game without any significance at all is the duel between bottom dwellers Rising Pune Supergiants and Kings XI Punjab on Saturday.
Delhi Daredevils, mentored by Rahul Dravid, have shown enormous resilience to stay in the hunt. With Hyderabad already on 16 points, it was Delhi that needed a victory to remain in the hunt. And they achieved just that with the help of a 59-ball-83 from Nair, his third 50 this season in a winning cause.
Earlier, David Warner played yet another solid knock up front, but 158 runs on a benign Raipur wicket weren't going to be enough, even with the bowling resources at his disposal. Warner's 56-ball-76 helped provide a solid foundation, but the Aussie batsman got no support from the other end. Moises Henriques' 18 was the next best effort, barely enough to snatch the initiative from a determined Daredevils team.
On the bowling front, Mustafizur Rahman was easily the pick of the lot, conceding just 24 runs in yet another impactful spell. This included the 19th over, in which the young Bangladeshi conceded just five runs and took a wicket. But the rest of the attack bowled without the conviction that has carried them to the top of the table.
Sunrisers' campaign this season has been based on the brilliant form of Warner and a bowling attack that tied opponents together by working well in tandem. But having built up their might on the strength of teamwork, they have begun to depend heavily on the individual brilliance of Warner and Mustafizur. Tom Moody, VVS Laxman and Muttiah Muralitharan need to put their heads together to rethink their endgame, with the team losing two of their last three matches. They might still make the play-offs, even if they lose to Kolkata on Sunday, considering their superior net run-rate of +0.355, but their confidence would have taken a big knock following a series of losses.
It is important for this team to stem this bleeding and a victory against the Knight Riders at Eden Gardens would be just the perfect ending to a fabulous league campaign. The management will need to pull the team into a huddle and implore them to work together with the same discipline that they exhibited for much of this season. Winning is both a science and an art, the Sunrisers only know it too well given the absence of big stars on their roster.
Warner and Fizz have earned their respite. It is for the rest of the team to show their mettle and carry the team over the line in the final week of the ninth season of IPL.
If they needed further inspiration, they should check out the effort put in by Barinder Sran to dismiss Carlos Brathwaite, leaping into the air and plucking out a peach to send the West Indian to the dugout. If they can play for each other and produce such brilliance again, this team can be in Bengaluru on 29 May, playing for top honours.
Updated Date: May 21, 2016 14:36 PM