Sunrisers Hyderabad have a foot in the play-off door following a clinical victory over Kings XI Punjab that has all but sealed their place in the top four of the Indian Premier League. The ninth season of this popular league has seen the team from Hyderabad evolve into an effective winning machine, on the combined strength of their top order and an extremely disciplined bowling attack. Another good team effort on Sunday, with a gem of an innings from Yuvraj Singh, helped the Sunrisers complete a tricky chase and earn the two points needed to nearly secure a play-off spot.
Sunrisers' performance on Sunday underlined their growing reputation as one of the best-knit units in the world's premier T20 league. David Warner does not have one single weapon in his armoury capable of driving fear into the heart of opponents, as the Royal Challengers do through the indomitable batting prowess of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. But the pieces that make up the team have come together as a unit and are doing just enough to get across the line consistently.
In their match against the Kings in Mohali, Warner's team put in a less-than-optimal bowling effort, but made up for it with some disciplined batting to chase down a sizeable target of 180. Punjab's score was setup by an imaginative effort from Hashim Amla, who struck a 56-ball-96 (14x4, 2x6). But with the ball, their reliable Sharma duo — Mohit and Sandeep — failed to fire, sending the Kings out of the tournament.
For Sunrisers, Shikhar Dhawan and Warner again combined well together to put up 68 for the first wicket. Dhawan wasted a good start though, and was tardy between the wickets while chasing a second run against the laser-like precision of Mohit Sharma's arm.
Warner’s consistency at the top has fueled Hyderabad's progress this season. He again struck a 41-ball-52, and though it was never threatening, it proved useful in laying the foundation needed to chase the target. By his own standards, he may have felt disappointed at losing his wicket after doing the hard work. Warner will need to continue performing at such high levels, perhaps even increase the rate of his scoring to influence the outcome of matches, especially during the knock-out phase.
In the process, he also became the third Hyderabad batsman to be dismissed hit-wicket this season; the Sunrisers seem to be afflicted by a hit wicket epidemic — Yuvraj started it all, Hooda followed his example, and it was Warner's turn on Sunday to dismantle his own castle.
By the time Warner fell, 83 were needed off 41 balls, and the middle-order had to step in and carry the team home. And that is exactly what they did, exemplifying the teamwork that is hoisting Sunrisers to great heights this season. Deepak Hooda has been playing with growing maturity and his 22-ball-34 helped keep the scorecard ticking as well as prevent any serious damage during the middle overs. Ben Cutting, playing his first match in this IPL, joined Yuvraj when 41 were needed off 24 balls. But only two runs came from the 17th over, adding pressure on the duo. But Yuvraj brought out his attacking instincts to hammer Mohit Sharma for a six and a four to start the 18th over. It was a belligerent statement from the experienced Punjabi, and that irrevocably turned the tone of the contest. Cutting took the cue from his senior partner and joined the party — he fired off two sixes in the next five balls. Yuvraj then hit another six off the second ball of the final over and took Hyderabad within one run of victory.
Earlier in the match, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mustafizur Rahman bowled with purpose in the face of Amla's onslaught. Fizz took the first wicket of the match, in his very first over. It is nearly a routine habit now, for the frontline bowlers of the Hyderabad team to snag a wicket or two early on in their spell.
While Bhuvneshwar and Mustafizur went for eight an over on Sunday, Karn Sharma’s inclusion, despite unimpressive outings against Royal Challengers and Knight Riders turned out to be an inspired choice. He kept things tight, bowling his four overs for 26 runs.
Considering that he gave away 81 runs off just 6.2 overs in those two matches, this was a timely performance from the young spinner. Especially so in a match where the famed bowling resources of the Sunrisers weren’t ticking as is their wont.
Victory helped Hyderabad seal their spot for the playoffs – only a crazy combination of mathematical improbabilities can keep them out now. On the other hand, the Kings joined Rising Pune Supergiants at the bottom of the heap.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: May 16, 2016 12:22:37 IST