Synopsis: Hyderabad betray nerves at the finish line after their bowlers apply the choke on the hosts.
All talk of the nature of the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch was quelled once Jonny Bairstow took strike.The Yorkshireman looked confident, bolstered by his incredible counter-attacking century against the Royal Challengers Bangalore four nights ago. In pursuit of Delhi Capitals below-par score of 129/8, he took the attack to the opposition with a mix of bold and deft stroke-play. On cue, he danced down the track to leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and smoked him for a towering six over his head that hit the top-tier. He followed that up with a cute flick shot off Chris Morris in the fourth over that sailed past the fine-leg boundary. Bairstow tore into Morris in that particular over, creaming him for another brace of boundaries, even as David Warner remained a mute spectator to the early carnage. If anything, it helped Hyderabad race to 62/0 at the end of Power Play. At that point, it still looked like a pretty straight forward chase, before the back-to-back dismissals of their openers pegged them back.
Bairstow fell two runs short of his half-century, but the efforts earned him the Player-of-the-Match award. In the absence of their incumbent captain Kane Williamson, who sat out to give the team the right balance, the onus was on Vijay Shankar and Manish Pandey to see them past the finish line. They were, however, undone by the tricky pitch. Much like Delhi’s batsmen, the two were dismissed after struggling with their timing. When Shankar was caught by Shreyas Iyer off Axar Patel in the 15th over, Hyderabad were in a bit of strife, needing 27 runs from 30 deliveries. Pressure would mount further on the visitors after a series of quiet overs from Kagiso Rabada and Morris turned the match equation to 17 runs from the final three overs. In the end, Mohammad Nabi, fresh from his exploits with the ball in the first innings, completed the formalities in the penultimate over, scoring a boundary off Rabada through an inside edge, before swatting the Protea pacer over the third-man boundary for a six. In the end, it was a little too close for comfort for Hyderabad. But it was a big win nevertheless, as it put them top of the points table.
Bowlers apply the choke
When Rishabh Pant walked out to bat against the Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Feroz Shah Kotla in his Delhi Daredevils jersey last year, he had bludgeoned an unbeaten 63-ball 128. Barely 11 months later, under a revamped, rebranded franchise, the stage was set for the wicket-keeper batsman to assert himself yet again. However, there were two factors that went against him. Firstly, the beige-coloured worn-out Kotla pitch was unlike anything that he had experienced during the entire duration of the previous IPL season. If anything, the track on offer on Thursday evening was overly sluggish and not conducive for stroke-play. As the Delhi batsmen found out, they couldn’t quite launch their way out of trouble. Secondly, the Sunrisers bowling attack looked well-equipped to exploit the conditions to the hilt.
For Hyderabad, even their seamers, led admirably by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, unleashed their array of slower deliveries and knuckle balls to telling effect. A combination of these factors made batting an arduous task for Delhi Capitals. Unsurprisingly, Pant struggled to get his timing; as did his captain Shreyas Iyer at the other end. Before them, their openers — Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan — had perished in a bid to inject momentum in the innings. At the end of Power Play, Delhi had meandered to 36/2, when Pant had joined Iyer at the crease. After hanging around for six deliveries, Pant, in a bid to unshackle himself, heaved a Mohammad Nabi delivery straight into the hands of Manish Pandey at long-off. A stunned silence had enveloped the Kotla as Pant walked back to the dug-out. His exit before the half-way stage of the innings, exposed Delhi’s wafer-thin middle-order.
Inexplicably, they sent Rahul Tewatia ahead of Colin Ingram and Chris Morris. The move made little sense. In a fast-paced format such as the IPL, it’s imperative that you get your best batsmen to face as many deliveries as possible. On match eve, Delhi’s assistant coach Mohammad Kaif had termed Morris as the X-factor in their line-up, and rued the limited batting time he had got in this season so far. Tewatia did little to inspire the promotion up the order.
By the time Morris walked out to bat in the 14th over, he had little time to fix the mess Delhi had found themselves in. Along with Iyer, he tried his best to salvage the situation, but Hyderabad’s bowling was relentless.