Sunrisers Hyderabad 162 for 4 (Bairstow 53, Warner 45, Williamson 41, Rabada 2-21, Mishra 2-35) beat Delhi Capitals 147 for 7 (Dhawan 34, Pant 32, Bhuvneshwar 2-25, Rashid 3-14) by 15 runs
Kane Williamson’s brilliant finishing touch and yet another T20 masterclass by Rashid Khan took the Sunrisers Hyderabad to a 15-run victory against Delhi Capitals, to ensure that inside the first fortnight of IPL 2020, every single team had points on the board.
Before this match, the Sunrisers were the bottom-placed team and the Capitals were on top of the table. While the table positions don’t mean that much so early into the tournament, the result showed how open this season is shaping up to be, with every team capable of beating every other.
The Sunrisers found a pitch suited to their style at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, and their bowling attack – for so long a strength but rendered slightly ineffective early in this IPL – came to the fore. Khan has long been one of T20 cricket’s best bowlers, but with teams largely opting to play him out carefully, his wickets count had dipped somewhat, though his economy rate has remained exceptional. Thanks to tight bowling upfront led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar though, the Capitals felt they had to attack Khan too. In the event they neither managed to get runs off him, nor preserve their wickets. He took out Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant, the heart of the Capitals’ top order, returning figures of 4-0-14-3.
Kumar, who had been wicketless in the two previous games, found seam movement and zip with the new ball, and ended with 2 for 25.
Warner and Bairstow start unlike Warner and Bairstow
When David Warner and Jonny Bairstow bat together, you expect fireworks more often than not. In this game, with the Sunrisers having beefed up their middle order by adding Williamson, the openers had greater freedom to attack. However, the Capitals’ seamers bowled tight lines, denying the batsmen any room, and both Warner and Bairstow played more conservatively as a result. The powerplay brought only 38 runs, the second fewest for this pair.
Bairstow didn’t achieve the fluency he is usually known for, but Warner adjusted to the pace of the pitch – stopping on occasion and slower – soon after the powerplay and began finding more power and placement.
Williamson’s finishing kick
He had been brought in to beef up the middle order. He was supposed to provide stability in case the openers couldn’t take off. They didn’t exactly take off, but they did bat into the tenth over, which rendered Williamson’s original role slightly moot. However, he adjusted to that in the famously unfussed manner that he seems to approach most things in life – a chase, a tied World Cup final, a volcano eruption probably – and turned into the finisher that the Sunrisers lacked.
Without trying to muscle the ball away, Williamson played to his strengths: timing, placement, and wrists like steel. He manoeuvred the ball into gaps, he moved around in his crease to create angles, and he even drag-flicked a cover drive off Amit Mishra. The legspinner had been chiefly responsible for reining Sunrisers in during the middle period with the wickets of Warner and Manish Pandey.
Williamson finished on 41 off 26, out in the final over, far and away the best innings for Sunrisers on the night. IPL debutant Abdul Samad did his prospects no harm either with a cameo at the end that included a six over long-on.
For the Capitals, Kagiso Rabada continued to be sensational, taking 2 for 21 in four overs, which included three overs at the death.
Seamers, and yorkers
Kumar had a quiet start to the IPL, while Natarajan was still searching for his standout performance in the IPL after creating a stir at the 2017 auction. Both men led the way for the Sunrisers seamers, hitting the right lengths. Natarajan’s nailing of the yorkers was particularly impressive, and in his third over – the 14th of the innings – he speared five yorkers.
Kumar had earlier given the Sunrisers the ideal start with the wicket of Prithvi Shaw in the first over. Brought back in the 16th over to counter a free-swinging Shimron Hetmyer, he got the West Indies left-hander too, keeping the ball wide and out of his reach to force an off-balance shot that spooned to long-off.
Natarajan also had a wicket to show for his excellent bowling, which on another day might have fetched him a bunch of them, when he trapped Marcus Stoinis lbw with his last ball.
Rashid to the fore
Most teams look to play out Khan when they face him, because trying to hit him dials up the risk factor considerably. But thanks to the excellent bowling upfront by the seamers, when Khan first came on to bowl, the asking rate had already crossed nine. He struck with his second ball, getting Iyer to mistime a lofted cover drive, having started by ripping a legbreak past the Capitals’ captain forward-defensive.
The Capitals batsmen couldn’t afford to attack him, but neither could they afford to let him dictate terms completely. The result was a bit of a jumbled approach where they played him carefully for a bit and then tried to go for a release shot. Dhawan was beaten on the sweep, getting a faint snick through, and by the time Khan came on for his final over, the Capitals needed 49 off 24. Pant decided he had to go for it, but couldn’t connect cleanly enough to clear the long boundary at backward square leg. That wicket effectively signalled the end of the Capitals’ hopes.
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