Sunil Narine is brought back into the attack with the hope that he can build pressure. A first slip is in place to add to the pressure. The batsmen do not expect this. Five runs in four balls from Vijay Shankar later, a silly point is placed too.
Gautaum Gambhir is under the helmet at silly point. He stares into Yuvraj Singh’s eyes. It makes Yuvraj nervous. The left-hander misses a regular off-break. He could have played it off the back foot on the off-side, but he attempts to defend the ball that has pitched on off-stump and is set to turn away. It turns, and fortunately for Yuvraj, beats the bat but misses the edge.
Yuvraj can feel the pressure. Gambhir can sense the pressure. He brings in a second slip for company next. The pressure increases. The nerves ramble. All Yuvraj can manage of the last ball of the over is to play the ball across the line without any changes to the scoreboard.
This scene of batsmen crowded with fielders while a spinner runs up to bowl to them could have been out of a Test match or a first-class game. But, it is instead a T20 game. The Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Kolkata Knight Riders are engaged in a battle to win a spot in the second qualifier against the Mumbai Indians.
In this game of high stakes, the Hyderabad batsmen have to overcome the surprise of a Test match like field. They also have to win a battle in their minds.
Throughout the season, the top order of the Sunrisers has been the envy of every other team. At the same time, their under-exposed middle and lower-orders have flatter to deceive every time the responsibility to see the team through troubled waters has fallen on their shoulders.
On Wednesday, the Sunsirsers Hyderabad batsmen, apart from their top three, had the chance to rewrite the public perception about their form this season. The half-packed M Chinnaswamy even gave the impression the stadium was packed with their ‘Yuvraj, Yuvraj’ chants when the experienced India all-rounder was out in the middle.
75 for 1 in fewer than 12 overs is a strong start, like has been the norm with the Sunrisers, on a slow wicket in a crunch game. But after David Warner and Kane Williamson head back to the hut within a space of three balls, that frail middle-order is left with almost half the innings to master. It is left with a knockout clash to ace. It is left with battles of the mind to win.
But for the next 40 minutes or so, the Sunrisers batsmen slip and stumble. They make a sluggish wicket appear like a demonic one.
Umesh Yadav bowls Yuvraj a bouncer in the 16th over. By now, the slow pace of the wicket has been determined. Yuvraj must wait for the ball, but he does not. He is early on to his pull. The ball hits the bottom of his bat and lobs straight into the hands of the deep square leg fielder.
Naman Ojha is the next man in. He has had a forgettable IPL. And, on Saturday, in an important game, the struggle continues. Apart from a six off Trent Boult, he scratches around.
With a six and couple of boundaries, Shankar at the other end promises to be Hyderabad’s savior. He hasn’t played much this season, but he hit form in the last game, and seems set to continue it against the Knight Riders. The supporters of the Sunrisers would have hoped that he does what MS Dhoni did for the Pune Super Giant on Tuesday. But, it was not to be. The pace the wicket does him in too, as he fails to time his loft off Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Chirs Jordan has been brought in for his first game of this year’s IPL to strengthen Hyderabad’s wobbly lower-order. He walks in after Shankar is caught at long-on, but cannot change the sinking fortunes of Hyderabad’s lower-order.
All Jordan can manage is to edge the ball back to Coulter-Nile after he unsuccessfully tries to flick his first delivery. The diving bowler completes a good catch to end any chance of a rare, late resurgence from the defending champions.
Eventually, the Sunrisers from 75 for 1 with over eight overs to play, can only drag themselves to a lowly 128 for seven in a game they had to win.
Just as the players walk off for the mid-innings break, the rain in Bangalore picks up. The rain, which lasts for a couple of hours, makes Hyderabad’s poor batting display look even more obvious.
48 from 6 overs is what the D/L method sets the Knight Riders to win and move a step closer to the final. The three early wickets offer the Sunrisers fleeting hope, but the continued trend of a middle and lower-order collapse from Hyderabad meant they could not stop Kolkata from booking their date with Mumbai.
Updated Date: May 18, 2017 09:12 AM