Even though the state of West Bengal was saved from the devastation of the cyclone Roanu, uninterrupted rains continue to whip coastal Andhra Pradesh under the impact of the cyclonic storm hovering over the Bay of Bengal over the last few days.
Juxtapose the aforementioned scenario with the Eliminator between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Wednesday evening.
KKR, accosted by inclement weather conditions were confronted with logistical issues prior to the match on Wednesday. Unable to find tickets for the entire team on the same flight, the Knights’ managementdecided to divide the squad into two groups and send them to the national capital on two different flights. However torrential rain and gusty winds meant 33 flights had to be diverted to Jaipur and while one of the two groups made it to Delhi on time, the other was left stranded in Jaipur from where they had to board a bus and travel overnight to Delhi, only to end up reaching at 7 am on the eve of the game.
Despite this unforeseen misadventure, the Knights have only themselves to blame for suffering a humiliating 22-run defeat at the hands of their Hyderabadi counterparts in the all-important contest.
It was the fourth time the Knights qualified into the playoffs whereas it was only the second time in four years that Sunrisers Hyderabad made a top-four finish. The flip of the coin was won by KKR skipper GautamGambhir who put the opposition in to bat first.Gambhir’s men had hitherto attained victories in 6 out the 8 games theyhad chased this season and the decision to bat second seemed understandable. KKR made two changes to the side which sealed a 22-run victory against the same opposition at the Eden Gardens three days ago.RajagopalSathish and MorneMorkel were swapped for AnkitRajpoot and ShakibAl Hasan respectively. Although speculations were rife that Andre Russell could make his way back into the playing XI after missing a couple of games owing to a leg injury, the Knights’ think-tank chose to go into the game without his services in order to give him enough recovery time. On the other hand, Sunrisers Hyderabad made two changes from the team which took to the field on Sunday as Ben Cutting and Bipul Sharma were brought in for Kane Williamson and Karn Sharma respectively.
The Feroz Shah Kotla wicket, which is traditionally known for its slothfulness has been conducive to batting in recent times. Both contestants fielded their teams accordingly.
Yusuf Pathan like the previous game started the proceedings with the ball for KKR and gave away just 4 runs. The fact that SRH boasts of three left handers in their top 4 must have enticed Gambhir to throw the ball to Pathan (an off-spinner) to bowl the first over. MorneMorkel, called upon to bowl the second over conceded two boundaries off the fourth and fifth balls but struck back to remove ShikharDhawan (10 off 10 balls) in the final delivery of the over.
Pathan continued to bowl a tight spell as his second over yielded just 3 runs. Warner looked completely out of sorts while facing the Baroda all-rounder and got together with his compatriot MoisesHenriques in order to make up for Dhawan’s early dismissal. Instead of bludgeoning the ball from the outset, the Sunrisers captain relied on conventional cricketing shots and occasional dabs behind the wicket to keep the scoreboard ticking. Pathan, who bowled three stringy overs up front allowed Warner to enjoy an extended stay in the middle as the latter was dropped off Pathan’s own bowling when he was on 10. Warner’s exculpation however didn’t make a drastic impact on the scoreboard as he would go on to add only 18 more.
After making a rather sedate start by their own standards in the powerplay overs (which accounted for 43 runs), SRH made their intentions clear through Henriques (31 off 21 balls) who began to take the charge to the opposition bowlers. He clubbed two sixes and a boundary before getting scalped byKuldeepYadavin the 10th over. In a vain attempt to slog a good length ball, the Australian seam-bowling all-rounder hit the ball in the air which was successfully nabbed by the bowler himself. The following delivery, the 21- year old chinaman bowler produced a wrong’un which was chopped by Warner (28 off 28 balls; 3 fours) onto his own stumps. KKR’s vice-like grip on the game was quite evident at that stage. Yuvraj Singh came out to bat at no. 4and was welcomed by a slip and a silly pointwhile coming up against Sunil Narine. Unlike Dhoni who was greeted with a similar field setting at the Eden Gardens a few days ago, Yuvraj looked unperturbed by Gambhir’s ‘canny’ tactics and raced to 18 off 12 balls in quick time. He took apart young KuldeepYadav with a four and a six in the 13th over. There are very few batsmen in the world who look as vigorous as Yuvraj when the left hander is in full flow. Yuvraj along with Deepak Hooda tried to steady the ship and dig in with a view to claw their way back into the game. Hooda also got into the act as he clobbered a huge six over deep mid-wicket off Narine’s bowlingin the first ball of the 15th over. The duo forged a partnership worth 49 runs in 36 balls before Hooda(21 off 13; studded with 2 sixes) was run out in the 16th over; courtesy a direct hit by Kuldeepwhich caught the batsman short of his crease. The fielding side was offered yet another glimmer of hope in the form of Ben Cutting’s (a golden duck) wicket as anunsuccessful endeavour by the Australian to go down the track saw him getting stumped by Robin Uthappa off KuldeepYadav’s bowling.
Unfazed by the frequent dismissals at the other end, Yuvraj (44 off 30 balls; including 8 fours and a six) went about his business of picking up boundaries on the leg side before a failed scoop off Holder in the 18th over resulted in the loss of his wicket. A late blitzkrieg by Bipul Sharma (14 off 6 balls; 2 sixes) towards the end lifted the Sunrisers total to 162/8 at the end of their allotted 20 overs.
Young Kuldeep Yadav was the pick of the KKR bowlers as he returned with figures of 3/35 whereas Jason Holder and MorneMorkel picked up two wickets each. Earlier in the season, Delhi Daredevils had successfully defended their totals in three out of the five matches played at this venue. Hence, there was no reason why Sunrisers Hyderabad couldn’t emulate the same.
Chasing a target of 163 at an initial asking rate of 8.15 runs per over, KKR got an early jolt as Robin Uthappa (11 off 7 balls) was removed by BarinderSran in the 2nd over of the Knights’ innings. Barring season 7 where the opening pair of GautamGambhir and Robin Uthappa put up fifty plus partnerships more often than not, the duo has failed to put up consistent performances as a pair in the last 2 seasons which in turn has been increasing the workload of the middle order. Colin Munro came in at no. 3 and gave the impression that he still hasn’t managed to adapt to the sluggish sub-continental pitches. The 29-year old Kiwi all-rounder made some desperate efforts to clear the fence but was unable to get hold of theSRH new ball bowlers, BarinderSran and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who strangled the left hander at the crease with their wily bowling. Gautam Gambhir undertook the task of piling up the runs but Munro’s run out in the 7th over wreaked havoc in the KKR camp. David Warner set up the game for his side by making some excellent tactical changes, which were well complemented by his bowlers. Post Munro’s departure, Gautam Gambhir was joined by an in-form Yusuf Pathan at the crease and the couple needed to put on a valuable partnership for the third wicket in order to calm down the jitters of the two-time champions. But their hopes of forging a much-needed partnership were dashed when the KKR skipper (28 off 28 balls) fell prey to a short ball by Ben Cutting which was caught by substitute fielder Vijay Shankar at long on. Pathan followed suit soon after as Bhuvaneshwar Kumar pulled off a blinder at deep mid-wicket which sent the former (2 off 6 balls) back to the pavilion in the 11th over. Pushed up against the wall, the Knights needed another 63 runs from 54 balls to win the contest. Manish Pandey tried to produce a rescue act by striking some meaty blows and his 46-run stand with Surya Kumar Yadav helped his side keep pace with the mounting asking rate. Surya Kumar Yadav (23 off 15 balls; 1 four and a six) was granted a fresh lease of life in the 15th over by Mustafizur Rahman at third man but threw away his wicket in the very next over; thanks to a miscued slog to Shikhar Dhawan off Moises Henrique’s bowling which left KKR needing 47 off the last 4 overs. It required a herculean effort from the KKR batsmen to win the match from that stage but a tight bowling display by the SRH bowlers ensured the Knights were kept under intense pressure. Warner plied his trade by asking Mustafizur to bowl the 17th over in which he conceded just 8 runs. That probably turned the tide in SRH’s favour. The nerves got the better of Manish Pandey (36 off 28 balls; 2 fours and a six) as a wild swing towards long on, off Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s bowling saw Deepak Hooda nab the ball on the boundary line. The equation boiled down to 25 needed off the last six balls. The final nail in KKR’s coffin was banged with Sathish’s(8 off 9 runs) departure in the final over which handed Sunrisers a well-earned victory. Bhuvaneshwar, who caught everybody’s attention with his well-executed yorkers, finished with figures of 3/19. He is also the possessor of the ‘Purple Cap’ at present. After making a valiant contribution with the bat, MoisesHenriques impressed one and all with his wicket-to-wicket bowling as is evident from his figures of 2/17. BarinderSran and Ben Cutting also chipped in with a wicket apiece.
It was a litmus test for the Sunrisers bowlers in the absence of their pace spearhead AshishNehra and to the delight of their coaching staff, the bowling unit came out with flying colours.
MoisesHenriques was adjudged the ‘Man of the Match’ for his all-round display (31 off 21 balls and 2/17 from 3 overs).
Speaking to Sanjay Manjrekar after the conclusion of the game, a visibly dejected Gambhir opined, ‘’I think 160 was a chaseable total. We didn’t have a good partnership. Yuvi played a special knock tonight. Replacing someone like Andre (Russell) is never easy but we tried our best. The batsmen could have applied themselves better though. I want to acknowledge the support of the crowds. They have been brilliant throughout the tournament’’.
David Warner, the victorious skipper said,‘’Our fielding was top-class tonight. I felt we scored some 10-15 runs less with the bat but I am happy with how the bowlers executed themselves. It will be a good contest against Gujarat Lions in the next game. Currently, we are taking one game at a time’’.
After the game ended, the cameras caught the KKR cheerleaders in tears; an image which summed up the gloomy atmosphere in the KKR camp following the defeat.
The win has secured Sunrisers Hyderabad a place in the second qualifier against Gujarat Lions which will be played at the same venue on Friday. The winner of the next game will square off against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the grand finale in Bangalore on Sunday.
SRH 162/8 (20 overs)
Yuvraj 44 (30) Kuldeep 4-035-3
Henriques 31 (21) Morkel 4-0-32-2
KKR 140/8 (20 overs)
Pandey 36 (28) Bhuvaneshwar 4-0-19-3
Gambhir 28 (28) Henriques 3-0-17-2..