From his trademark cuts,pulls and drives each shot played with amplified flourish to twirling his moustache triumphantly,we have already seen plenty of examples of Shikhar Dhawan’s penchant for style ever since he smashed the Australian attack on his way to establishing a remarkable record in March-the fastest Test century on debut. On Wednesday,as the 27-year-old left-hander walked out to bat,his task was a straightforward one,taking the Sunrisers from Hyderabad over the line in their pursuit of a modest target of 130.
The Uppal pitch had not been an easy one to start with,and even the in-form Mumbai Indians batsmen had been forced to choose circumspection over outright assault as an option to survive on it. And with Hyderabad desperate to bounce back to winning ways after a string of losses,Dhawan would have been expected to play a sheet-anchor’s role to guide his team to victory. To his credit,he did remain unbeaten in the end and even scored the winning run eventually.
But while he wielded the bat,the pitch,opposition bowling or the pressure of the run-chase hardly seemed to matter to Dhawan.
And he dished out another exemplary display of his talent and attitude with a thrill-a-minute knock,hitting more boundaries than any other batsman and recording a better strike-rate than anyone else on a day which could have belonged entirely to the bowlers if not for him. Dhawan hit nine boundaries and one towering six off Harbhajan Singh in his unbeaten 55-ball 73 as Sunrisers raced to a seven-wicket win with two overs to spare. With their fourth win in as many games at Uppal they also continued to ostracise the previous franchise’s jinx at home along with augmenting the ‘tigers at home’ theme of IPL VI.
While most expected the run-chase to be a tricky one,Dhawan put all those fears to rest in the very second over with a belligerent assault on Dhawal Kulkarni. He first puched the right-armer past mid-off for four before stepping down the wicket,forcing Kulkarni to pitch short and cutting him away fiercely for another boundary. He then welcomed Harbhajan with a six,and never let the rest of the Mumbai bowlers settle.
The boundaries kept coming at regular interims,but the visitors did manage a stranglehold briefly when skipper Kumar Sangakkara was dismissed. It was Dhawan again,who got Sunrisers back on track with a spate of boundaries of Dwayne Smith in his only over,taking the medium-pacer for 15 runs. There was no looking back for the hosts,as they cruised to a comprehensive win with their talisman leading the way.
ISHANT keeps it tight
It was another Team India star who shone with the ball for Hyderabad earlier in the day. And Ishant Sharma took the bowling honours with figures of 2/15 in his four overs,including the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar-bowled again-and Dinesh Karthik.
Run-scoring itself proved an arduous task for the Mumbai batsmen,and they never really got going. The fact that they had to depend on 41 singles during their innings is a fair indicator of that. Mumbai did have wickets in hand as they sought to pick up pace during the death overs. But all they managed was five boundaries in the last seven overs with three in the last one from Thisara Perera. Not surprisingly,the Sunrisers hardly broke sweat during their chase,especially with Dhawan holding the reins.
Sunrisers have been the unexpected high-risers of the tournament and have constantly punched above their weight. That too they have done that without their belligerent opener’s acclaimed services. Now with Dhawan back and in flow,Hyderabad look set to create many more upsets in the coming weeks.
Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 129 for 4 in 20 ovs (D Smith 38,AT Rayudu 34 n.o,I Sharma 2/15) lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad 130 for 3 in 18 ovs (S Dhawan 73,H Vihari 25; Harbhajan Singh 1/35)