Sunrisers Hyderabad nearly contrived to lose the match with an implosion that followed David Warner’s explosion at the top. But such was Warner’s brilliance, and the impact of his 37-ball 69, that Hyderabad could afford a collapse and still manage to win.
That Warner was in destructive touch had manifested in the first match, wherein he had caned Kolkata Knight Riders bowlers to submission. If any, he was more devastating against Rajasthan Royals. Revealing his intentions straightaway, he heaved Dhawal Kulkarni over deep mid-wicket for a six.
Warner rampaged like an express train, disheartening Rajasthan bowlers and making the target of 199 look insignificant. So much so that even the seasoned (and equally destructive) Jonny Bairstow was made to look like a wide-eyed fresher. By the time Warner completed his half-century, the Englishman had not even entered double figures.
A desperate Rahane shuffled his bowlers around, but Warner was unbothered. He thrashed Ben Stokes for three thunderous boundaries; Kulkarni was mercilessly plundered and Krishnappa Gowtham was made to resemble a novice net-bowler. For a while it looked like Warner would wrap up the match in 15 overs, before he uncharacteristically perished attempting the pull, one of his percentage strokes. And for a while, it seemed his fellow men would unravel like Rajasthan the other night. In one manic over, Sheyas Gopal dismissed Vijay Shankar, who scored a gamely 35 off 15 deliveries, and Manish Pandey to whip up hopes of an unlikely win.
Non-violent, wristy Sanju
It’s easy to appreciate and rave about those winking front-elbow and the stretched front-leg as Sanju Samson eases into his cover-drives. But many a time his magnificent wrist work goes unappreciated.
But not today. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, whose 18th over Sanju creamed for 24 runs, would attest.
The first ball was a good-length delivery that he just lifted over the long-off with a lucid extension of his bat. The next ball was pitched-up, almost yorker length, he just stretched his bat and opened the bat face at the last moment, the wrists guiding it through backward point. The next ball was a replica, before he opened up and slapped a shortish delivery between backward point and point. No matter where Kumar was pitching, Sanju seemed bent on sending every delivery through arc between backward point and third man.
As if to show he wasn’t an off-side bully, he whipped Sandeep Sharma through square leg, the wrists again directing the trajectory of the delivery. In fact, he was ruthless on anything marginally leg-sidish, ferrying three of his four sixes through the legs. The first, off Shahbaz Nadeem, came just when he looked every bit as rusty as someone who hasn’t played any competitive cricket since January. Until then, he had looked utterly rusty — an edge eluded the first-slip by a whisker, a flurry of mistimed strokes, and a face that betrayed his anxiety every bit. But by the end of his knock though, his face was beaming with joy.
But it was one of those days when Warner’s brute force prevailed over Sanju’s grace, as is often the narrative thread of IPL matches.
Brief scores: Sunrisers Hyderabad 201 for five in 19 overs [David Warner 69 off 37 balls (9×4, 2×6), Bairstow 45 off 28 (6×4, 1×6); S Gopal 3/27] beat Rajasthan Royals 198 for two in 20 overs [Sanju Samson 102* off 55 balls (10×4, 4×6), Ajinkya Rahane 70 off 49 (4×4, 3×6)]