David Warner had his helmet in one hand, bat in the other. First, he raised both those hands. Then, he bowed down. Next he acknowledged the people of Hyderabad by pointing his bat to every corner of the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, which had been charmed by the magic of Warner.
Some of the Kolkata Knight Riders players stood with hands on their hips, while the others applauded the wizardry from Warner. The visitors had been left stunned inside this stadium in Uppal, which wore a blanket of orange in support of the Sunrisers Hyderabad. There was also the kind of noise from the 50-odd thousand hysterical supporters that may not have been heard too often at the venue before, which numbed Gautam Gambhir and his men further.
Gambhir was especially startled. The Knight Riders captain was irritated by the helplessness Warner’s gem had rendered him with. It was a lovely surface to bat on but a 43-ball whirlwind 100 is not what Gambhir would have even imagined after asking the hosts to take first strike.
The Knight Riders were atop the IPL 2017 standings and they had beaten the Sunrisers at the Eden Gardens in the first leg. But, it was as if Warner had written the script for the Sunday night battle. “Both the teams are in good form. But, this is our fortress,” he had warned his rival at the toss. When he walked out to face the first ball from Nathan Coulter-Nile, he appeared to have come out with the intention to remind the tourists of his words at the toss.
Coulter-Nile has been lethal in the games he has played this season, nipping the ball around at pace. But, Warner knew no fear. He stepped down to start the innings. Though he missed the drive, the intent could not be missed. A couple of deliveries later, he struck a boundary over cover to land the first blow.
About an hour and 11 overs into the game, Warner was busy with his elaborate century celebrations. The trademark leap and punch in the air with the helmet in a hand and bat in the other stated the revelry. It was complete when when Warner pumped his fist after Kolkata fell 48 short of Hyderabad’s 209 for three.
“Credit goes to him (Warner) for the shots he played,” Gambhir conceded after the Sunrisers had blown the Knight Riders out of Hyderabad.
Warner was the protagonist of the triumph. His knocks are always aggressive, but this one was on booster shots of aggression. The left-hander swept Chris Woakers for a six, murdered the part-time off-spin of Yusuf Pathan and welcomed the mystery spin of Sunil Narine with a switch-hit six to bring up his 50 off a mere 20 deliveries.
But it was Warner’s face-off with the young Kuldeep Yadav that narrated a tale of contrast.
In the 10th over, Warner used the switch-hi to dispatch a flat Kuldeep delivery to the fence and unsettle him. He followed it up with a lofted drive and slog sweep to destroy the young left-arm leg spinner with consecutive sixes.
A month ago, however, Kuldeep, on Test debut, had left Warner in search of answers. In the Dharamsala Test of the exciting India-Australia series, Warner stayed back and tried to cut a fuller Kuldeep delivery. All he could manage is to edge it to slip.
Warner had had endured a forgettable Test tour. Though he had scored 56 in the first innings in Dharamasala, Kuldeep ensured that the hope of a bigger score that was overdue was torn from him.
The Australian vice-captain ended the Test series with 193 runs at an abysmal average of 24.12 and a solitary 50. Warner had plundered runs against South Africa and Pakistan back in Australia but had failed to overcome his demons of Test cricket in Asia when Australia came down to India.
The opener has 18 Test hundreds to his name, averages a mighty 47.42 and has a highest score of 253, but only 551 of his 5454 runs have come in Asia. His average languishes at 25.04, and he is yet to score a Test ton.
But change the colour of the ball to white, the format of the game to 20 overs a side and remind him that it is the IPL to see the master in him emerge. The same pitches that haunt him in Test cricket are the ones he can vouch for in the IPL.
If it needed any further proof, Sunday’s great T20 knock left little scope for argument.
By the end of it, Warner’s 126 left the supporters of the Sunrirsers Hyderabad with a plenty of reasons to rejoice. This was the first IPL century by a batsman from their team, it had massacred the Knight Riders even before they could commence their innings, and, most importantly, such ominous Warner form placed them in line for a shot at a successive IPL title, if evidence from last season is to go by.
Updated Date: May 01, 2017 10:03 AM