Synopsis: Bhuvi and Fizz leave Lions swatting flies before Shikhar Dhawan anchors run-chase to thwart Dhawal Kulkarni’s miserly efforts.
Lords of the flies
THE IPL has always bragged about bringing new cricket fans into the ground. On Sunday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal, we witnessed a bug invasion. They were everywhere. If they weren’t flying in front of batsmen’s eyes, they were undertaking unwarranted incursions inside bowlers’ shirts and as Bhuvneshwar Kumar would reveal later in the day also forcibly adding themselves to the players’ dinner menu. And for a better part of their innings the Gujarat Lions were left swatting flies. But the creepy crawlies with wings didn’t have much to do with it always. Instead it was the Hyderabad seamers who were bugging Gujarat’s explosive batting line-up the most.
You look at the Lions’ top-order and the first thought that comes to your mind is carnage. With Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina and Aaron Finch occupying the top four positions, the Sunrisers maybe should have been handed the win simply after the first two overs of the Lions’ innings. For, at that point Gujarat’s score read 0-0. Yes, it’s true. Kumar and Ashish Nehra had actually managed to start the innings off with a maiden over each, that too to Smith and McCullum respectively.
It’s a universal disclaimer handed out to all bowlers facing the prospect of bowling to Smith and McCullum—don’t give them width or even a semblance of a chance to free their arms. But what Kumar was doing is dangling a carrot to the destructive Bajan opener. His line—outside off-stump—surely was handing Smith plenty of opportunities to free his arms. But his ability to move the ball away sharply meant that the right-hander kept swatting at the ball in vain, neither connecting with the leather nor with the annoying insects. It was only understandable that Kumar had Smith caught at short third-man as he finally connected with an attempted swipe, though the ball only nicked his outside-edge.
Nehra was more prudent in his approach, completely cramping up McCullum with a line around his leg-stump. All the Kiwi dynamo could do was charge down the ground repeatedly with the hope that Nehra would miss his mark as a result. But the veteran wasn’t budging from his line of attack. And eventually after a scratchy 7 off 19—yes you read that right—McCullum finally perished to a tragic heave over the straight field that was snapped up gleefully by David Warner.
Suresh Raina though did manage to somehow smash two sixes—a feat which was incidentally replicated by his counterpart when it was Hyderabad’s time to bat—but he too fell to Kumar’s ability to move the ball around hitting a ball against the movement straight back to the bowler.
There was still Mustafizur Rahman waiting in the wings. And the Fizz was once again too much to handle for the Lions. He started off with having McCullum dropped by Shikhar Dhawan at point, but then made up for it by having Dinesh Karthik caught at backward point in acrobatic fashion by a seemingly unsure Kane Williamson. And while Kumar and Nehra did the unthinkable by recording two maiden overs in the same bowling figures list of a T20 innings, it was Mustafizur who put on a show once more with his trickery.
This year, the annual glitzy fare hasn’t quite been played out in front of packed grounds every night as has been the norm over the previous eight years. The predictability in terms of teams batting first clamouring up and succumbing to the pressure of setting up a total—a predicament that in the past was seen more in teams chasing targets—might have something to do with it. But the pitch at Uppal also showed how much conditions come into play when bat needs to dominate ball the way we are used to seeing in the T20 format. For, at the slightest presence of assistance to the bowlers, we see even the strongest of batting line-ups come a cropper, like Gujarat did on Friday.
The pride of Gujarati Lions thrived a lot on living by the sword in the early part of the competition where they racked up six wins in seven matches. But for the third match on the trot, their kamikaze approach has seen them crash-land rather pitifully. Here, the Sunrisers bowlers had overcome Gujarati might with nothing more than a sleight of hand.
Dhawan anchors chase
Ideally you wouldn’t have thought it was a pitch in favour of a free-flowing batsman like Dhawan. But the situation demanded that the opener could spend time at the crease and take his time. Even though he did string up a few decent scores, Dhawan’s not been at his dominant best but he’s shown the ability to grit and grind it out this season. That’s exactly what Hyderabad needed once skipper Warner perished after a little cameo at the top. And though it wasn’t always pretty, Dhawan managed to stay there till the very end to see his team through to fourth on the table at a crucial juncture of the IPL season.
Dhawal’s miserly efforts
Many chuckled away when Dhawal Kulkarni placed his price-tag in the IPL auction at the highest-possible rate of Rs 2 crore. Though he didn’t quite set any bidding war, as was expected, during the auction, he has already shown his worth to Gujarat who were the sole team interested in him. He was significant in their win at Wankhede Stadium over Mumbai Indians, and here he came close to giving his team a fair chance at an upset win. Not only did he manage to slip in a maiden himself, but by getting rid of Warner and Yuvraj Singh later in his debut for Sunrisers, the wiry Mumbai pacer kept his team in the game with nothing more than pitching the ball on a length and letting the pitch and the flies make life difficult for the batsmen, which they did, but not for long enough.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines