A sensational opening partnership between Jonny Bairstow and captain David Warner helped Sunrisers Hyderabad to a formidable 201/6. Then their bowlers and fielders clinched a comprehensive 69-run win over Kings XI Punjab. However, it was not before a scare from Nicholas Pooran’s onslaught. But two run-outs and a match-defining spell from their talisman Rashid Khan – who finished with figures of 3/12 – made it a night to savour for the Sunrisers.
Pooran lone bright spot
During Kings XI Punjab’s opening game against Delhi Capitals, Sunil Gavaskar had said in commentary that of all the international players, he was most excited to see how Nicholas Pooran would fare this season. It was not surprising to know why. The Trinidadian has been quite a revelation in the Caribbean Premier League and his exploits in the shorter formats for West Indies are well documented. However, barring a scarcely-believable fielding effort at the boundary against Rajasthan Royals, Pooran had hardly caught the eye this season so far.
But on Thursday, the elegant left-hander finally stamped his class with a knock that had the potential of numbing opposition attacks. Frustratingly, he didn’t find any support from the other end. Skipper KL Rahul and opening partner Mayank Agarwal had done the bulk of the scoring for Kings XI this season, but the two had an off day. The feature of Pooran’s knock was the control with which he executed his strokes. From the pulls to the glides, the left-hander showcased his full repertoire, marrying grace with brute force. The highlight was the manner in which he smoked 28 runs from a single Abdul Samad over. His 37-ball 77 was punctuated with seven sixes. His dismissal in the 15th over to Rashid Khan effectively snuffed out Kings XI’s hopes.
Bairstow, Warner tee off
One of the most fascinating aspects of the IPL is the grand alliance between Warner and Bairstow for Sunrisers. An Englishman and an Australian in the same dressing room can often lead to discord, but their camaraderie is almost surreal. Last year, they were involved in four century opening partnerships, and accounted for close to 60 per cent of the team’s total runs. It’s been a hit-and-miss this season. It took a featherbed Dubai pitch and a ragged Kings XI Punjab bowling to get their partnership going. It was a rollicking start, one that immediately threw a spanner in Rahul’s plans. Over the course of these two seasons, Warner and Bairstow have complemented each other beautifully. Despite an effervescent start from Warner, there was a phase when he was struggling with his timing. Sensing that, Bairstow cut loose. The feature about his batting on Thursday was the nimble footwork and the ease with which he came down the track to spinners and medium-pacers alike. The Yorkshireman targeted the straight boundaries and, to a large extent, refrained from playing across the line.
Bairstow’s belligerence eased the pressure on Warner, who maintained the intensity by running hard between the wickets. The duo raced to their fifth 100-run stand in the IPL, even as Bairstow continued playing the role of the aggressor to a nicety. In the interim, when Warner brought up his ninth fifty against Punjab, Sunrisers’ dashing openers were well on course to overtaking their previous best stand of 185. But when Warner departed for a 40-ball 52, they had notched up a score of 160 in 15 overs. Bairstow exited in the same over for 97 that resulted in a stutter towards the end. Leggie Ravi Bishnoi and rookie medium-pacer Arshdeep Singh took five wickets between them as Sunrisers managed just 41 runs in the final five overs.
Brief scores: Sunrisers Hyderabad 201/6 in 20 overs (J Bairstow 97, D Warner 52; R Bishnoi 3/29, A Singh 2/33) bt Kings XI Punjab 132 all out in 16.5 overs (N Pooran 77; R Khan 3/12, K Ahmed 2/24, T Natarajan 2/24) by 69 runs
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