David Warner finally let off a cry of anguish and headed towards his teammates, who applauded in appreciation. There had been moments of frustration at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, his pain growing with every one that pushed them back, but at last the Sunrisers Hyderabad had endured a lapse that had almost certainly dealt them the knockout blow.
For years, Warner would not require a reason to react and throw up a fit on and off the field of play. With time, he mellowed down and transformed himself into a mature leader. This captain Warner led Sunrisers Hyderabad to their maiden IPL triumph last season. It was the same Warner that took the field when the Sunrisers hosted the Rising Pune Supergiant on Saturday evening. Warner had remained expressionless, contained his disappointment and angst and restrained himself for much of the evening.
Bipul Sharma dropped Steve Smith, Siddharth Kaul did not make much of an effort to catch Ajinkya Rahane, Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled lengths that MS Dhoni could feast upon and Kane Williamson played away from his body and nicked it caught behind just two deliveries after Shikhar Dhawan had fallen. But Warner finally suffered a momentary lapse of restraint and let out that cry of despair on his way back to the hut after he was seduced by a short and wide delivery from Ben Stokes. All he could manage was to sky it to deep point.
The captain was aware that he had fallen for the lure, and that with his fall the Sunrisers could fall deep into the pit. He was aware that he had involved his lower-middle order in this tricky pursuit, which was not the brightest idea considering they had barely been exposed in the entire tournament.
As the captain of the defending champions, the urge for Warner to lead from the front has been palpable. He worked hard for 33 balls, fought off the slowness of the pitch and put the Sunrisers on track for an important victory against Pune. But on the 34th ball after he had scored 40 of the team’s 83, he was bought the temptation of a Stokes delivery.
Yuvraj Singh still stood at the other end, but the sluggishness of the wicket had not allowed him to be his fluent best either. And, life for a new batsman against a tidy attack and a difficult wicket did not promise to be easy. The next 7.4 overs were testimony to the fact, as Pune eclipsed the champions in their own den by 12 runs. For a lower-middle order that had for most of the IPL so far watched from the comforts of the dugout as their more illustrious top-order mastered one bowling attack after another, the struggle came as no surprise.
A total as low the Sunrisers had never failed to chase. A total as low the Supergiant had never failed to defend. But with the IPL nearing its climax, the Sunrisers blew away the chance to move to the more secured second place on the table. If there was a game when Warner needed his lower-order to don their capes and turn up as superheroes, it was now. Instead, the rust on Naman Ojha and Co was too hard to shake off. All they could manage was gift Pune the transient climb to the second spot.
At the time Warner was dismissed, the Sunrisers were just another 65 away. They even had 46 balls and seven wickets to get them. In today’s day and age of T20 cricket, the chase from thereon should have been a breeze, even on a challenging surface. But the men who followed failed to partner Yuvraj in his valiant attempt to see his team home.
Moises Henriques has evolved as one of the more reliable all-rounders for Sunrisers this season. But, on a night when Uppal prayed for him to come off, he misread Imran Tahir’s googly and chopped it on. In a chase that had turned tenser, he had taken up six balls for his eight.
Ojha walked in next and ate up another six balls to crawl to two. Yuvraj had taken on Imran Tahir and Dan Christian from the other end, but Ojha’s inability to add to the scoreboard forced Yuvraj to chase a wide Jaydev Unadkat delivery. The mistimed shot, a result of the increased pressure, led to the left-hander’s downfall.
A six off the next ball from Ojha provided hope. But, it was misleading. He, too, in the same over fell to Unadkat’s cutter. Earlier in the IPL, Ojha had spoken about not being too comfortable batting lower down the order, Saturday showed that perhaps he is not cut out for that kind of a role.
With 13 required off the last over, and four wickets still in the bag, Hyderabad had one last shot at attaining the triumph that was expected. In the batting prowess of the all-rounder Bipul, Warner and his men hoped. But, all the left-hander could do was a find a fielder on the leg-side fence. With four balls to go, Rashid Khan and Bhuvneshwar decided to slog Unadkat. The thought behind the shots was absent, and they ended up handing the left-arm pacer a hat-trick in the final over of the game as their team slumped to a defeat that should never have been theirs.
By the end of it, the lower-middle order had left Warner’s team stranded. The fortress that was the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium had been breached. Mumbai Indians, who demolished Delhi Daredevils later in the evening, visit the Sunrisers on Monday. Hyderabad will hope Saturday’s collapse was enough of a wake up call for the lower-order as they brace themselves for the red-hot Mumbai.
Updated Date: May 07, 2017 11:57 AM