David Warner shrugged his shoulders more often than he waved his arms to set the field from the straight boundary, in Sunrisers Hyderabad's match against the Gujarat Lions on Saturday. His bowlers had their arms on their waists more often than they had them up in celebration.
The first 11 overs at the Green Park stadium was a script the Sunrisers did not want to write or even be a part of.
A defeat would have still left the door to the playoffs open for the Sunrisers, but they would have had to rely on the outcome of the remaining fixtures for it. Ideally, as the defending champions, they wanted to break open the door and storm into the business end of the tournament. The start to Saturday’s game against the Lions, however, threatened to leave them at the mercy of their rivals.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, despite his fine form and purple cap, started off with two half-trackers in the first over. Both of them were punished to the fence, one each by Dwayne Smith and Ishan Kishan. The start was a contagious rash that caught on among the rest of the Sunrisers bowlers.
Mohammad Siraj was brought on next. After which, Siddharth Kaul was asked to replace Bhuvneshwar. But, the trend remained consistent and the bowling remained short. To make matters worse, the short balls were now on the pads. The balls now flew not just to the fence, but even over the ropes.
One tidy over from Mohammad Nabi provided hope, which was dispelled as quickly as it emerged when Smith decided to attack his off-spin in the next over.
The threat was real when Rashid Khan, the bowler who has carried Sunrisers out of many a crisis, appeared to be struck by the short-bowling syndrome as well. The two deliveries he dropped short sailed over the fence.
He bowled the final delivery of his first over full and flat in order to rectify the overdose of short deliveries but bowled it down the leg. Smith paddled it for another four. Seventeen runs had come off Sunrisers’ trump card. Their answers had been misplaced... their worries mounted.
Gujarat were on course for a 200 plus score after they had crushed every short delivery en route 111 in 10.4 overs.
The Sunrisers were in desperate need of a dramatic rescue act. Just then, Rashid initiated one. The delivery was still on the shorter side but was well directed. The ball darted past below Smith’s bat and wrapped him on the pads. For the first time in the evening, Warner’s men had the luxury to breathe as the West Indian was on his way back to the dugout.
The break at the fall of the wicket appeared to have allowed the Sunrisers to reanalyse their strategy. A bowling effort in stark contrast to the first half of the innings followed.
Suddenly, Bhuvneshwar was in the ears of his fellow Indian pacers a lot more. He had noticed a trait in the wicket, and he wanted his teammates to exploit it. From there on, the slower cutters became a norm.
Kishan and Suresh Raina found the off-cutters from Siraj difficult to get away. Both the left-handers attempted to send them into the crowd but could only manage to find the fielders.
The spurt of wickets promised the Sunrisers hope. In a bid to capitalise on the promise, captain Warner reintroduced his trump card – Rashid – to the bowling attack. The short deliveries were a thing of the past now. The leg-spinner brought out his ferocious googly instead.
Dinesh Karthik caught the 'wrong one' on the full but the spin on it meant that he could only hit it as far as the deep mid-wicket fielder. A couple of balls later, Aaron Finch read the googly. Yet, his slog missed the ball, which went on to disturb the timber. The Sunrisers had staged a comeback of champions.
The Lions had got off to a flier in their last-ever IPL game. But the flight did not last long as the Sunrisers clipped their wings. The visitors struck on five instances in a span of three overs. Raina’s men could add just 12 runs to their total as Sunrisers dismantled their team’s middle-order, one piece at a time.
Ravindra Jadeja and James Faulkner tried to salvage the sinking Gujarat ship. The effort did not last long, as Siraj returned to castle Faulkner and Pradeep Sangwan’s stumps off consecutive deliveries.
Sunrisers had doused the fire. There was no scope of a Gujarat revival. The run rate of over 10 and the 10 wickets in hand at the end of the first half of the innings felt like it belonged to another match, as Warner’s boys ambushed the Lions for 154, with four balls to spare.
"Credit to the bowlers, Siraj... the way they brought it back, was fantastic. Some fantastic bowling units around in the country. Shows what talent you have here, especially in the T20s and ODIs,” a relieved Warner said, satisfied with the rescue act his bowlers had successfully completed.
Sensible half-centuries by Warner and Vijay Shankar ensured Sunrisers jogged to an eight-wicket triumph and ended the day second on the points table. If Pune lose to the Kings XI Punjab on Sunday, the Sunrisers could retain the spot and secure two shots at making the final.
Updated Date: May 14, 2017 10:24 AM