It was termed as the ‘Miracle Catch’. For a good reason too. Kane Williamson, stationed at gully, flew to his left to pluck a stunning one-handed catch to dismiss England’s Stuart Broad in Day/Night Test match at the Eden Park last month. In the midst of his overwhelming grace and substance, which define Williamson’s artistic batsmanship, there’s another integral aspect to his game that rarely gets spoken about — his fielding. Every now and then, he does provide ample glimpse of this facet. The Eden Park Test was a case in point.
Those traits were on display when Williamson strode out at Hyderabad’s Uppal Stadium in his orange Sunrisers Hyderabad jersey. The New Zealand captain is no stranger to the razzmatazz of the IPL. But this season is different. In the absence of David Warner, the mantle of leading the franchise fell on his resolute shoulders. Right from winning the toss and asking the Rajasthan Royals to take first strike on a sluggish track, and then addressing his team-mates in the huddle, Williamson looked largely unperturbed as Hyderabad’s new leader. The captain was in the thick of the action pretty early on in the game. His brilliant one-handed pick-up and throw from mid off dismissed Royals’ opener D’Arcy Short. Precisely eight overs later, Williamson followed it up with a running catch from deep long-on to see the back of the dangerous Ben Stokes.
That catch was no where as spectacular to the one he had plucked at the Eden Park last month. Infact, at first glance, it looked like Williamson had messed it up. Nevertheless, he showed the poise and the presence of mind to not lose grip on the ball. The run-out and the smart running catch set up the tone for Hyderabad. If anything, the captain’s energy seemed to have rubbed off on his motley bunch. They gobbled up everything that came their way, well almost.
Williamson was on the mark as a captain too — displaying a refreshingly aggressive and proactive approach, backed by his earnestness to plug the scoring-rate in the middle overs. He knew the only way to do this was by picking up wickets at regular intervals. He rotated his bowlers cleverly, giving them short 1-over spells. In doing so, it gave the Royals fairly little chance of settling down. Just to put things into perspective, between overs 7-10, Siddharth Kaul, Rashid Khan, Billy Stanlake and Shakib Al Hasan were employed for an over each. The bowling order was rejigged in the subsequent four overs in the form of Stanlake, Rashid, Kaul and Shakib respectively. Stanlake was a robust hit-the-deck fast bowler, Rashid was wily and the prodigiously gifted Afghani leg-spinner, while Kaul was the vastly improved medium-pacer, who mixed his lengths cleverly. Shakib, Bangladesh’s left-arm spinner, with his immaculate lines, especially to the right-handers, completed Hyderabad’s deadly quartet. This heady concoction of variety pegged the Royals. From 56/2 in the 7th over, Rahane’s side slipped to 97/6 in the 15th over.
Fire and ice alliance
In pursuit of Royals’ below-par score of 125, he was put under a bit of strife early on by Dhawal Kulkarni’s pronounced movement. The opening over of the chase was the only fleeting moment when Dhawan looked out of sorts. He struggled with his timing, and those languid cover drives, which he unfurls with great finesse seemed to have deserted him. He even survived a dropped chance against the Mumbaikar early on. But the opener hung on.
The sight of a smallish target tempered his frayed nerves. It was a typical whole-hearted slash over slips that got him going. As Royals continued to pepper him with a barrage of short deliveries, he was equal to the task, swatting them over point and third-man — two very profitable regions for the 32-year-old. He was ably supported by Williamson, his captain, whose composure complemented Dhawan’s blitz. Barring his six off Jaydev Unadkat over the square-leg boundary, Williamson was happy to play second fiddle to his belligerent opener. Without much fuss, the two shot down the target with more than four overs to spare. Dhawan’s unbeaten 57-ball 77 won him the Man-of-the-Match award.
Brief scores: Sunrisers Hyderabad 127 for 1 (Dhawan 77*, Williamson 36*) beat Rajasthan Royals 125 for 9 (Samson 49, Kaul 2-17, Shakib 2-23) by nine wickets.