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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Setting sun singes RCB’s top-two hopes

SRH bowlers shine despite Maxwell’s form. Partnership batting sets the winning base

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
Updated: October 7, 2021 7:27:10 am
RCB's top 2 hopes all but done as they lose to SRH by 4 runs (IPL)

Devdutt Padikkal tapped a Rashid Khan delivery to cover and ran without looking at his partner. Glenn Maxwell responded and it was misjudgement on both batsmen’s part. Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper Kane Williamson swooped on the ball and ran the Aussie out with a direct hit.

Run-scoring was difficult on a slow Abu Dhabi pitch, but Maxwell’s hitting prowess was making the pitch factor redundant – he was scoring at a strike rate of 160. And although Royal Challengers Bangalore were still staring at an asking rate of close to nine runs per over, another few deliveries for the Australian probably would have sealed the deal for his team. In the end, his dismissal proved to be the turning point. It wasn’t easy for a new batsman, even for someone of AB de Villiers’ calibre, to force the pace straightway on this surface. Padikkal, at the other end, got into a rut, going at a sub-80 strike rate before a catch in the deep off Khan put him out of his misery. In the end, RCB fell short by four runs, which effectively ended their hopes of finishing in the top two.

SRH bowlers shine

Sunrisers’ season was long done and dusted. Yet, Williamson inspired his troops to play for pride. Their bowling also offered a big picture, ahead of the T20 World Cup. Bhuvneshwar Kumar looked in fine rhythm right through his four overs, conceding 25 runs and taking Kohli’s wicket. Yet again, the RCB skipper’s head fell over a bit, going outside the line of the ball, an issue he will need to address before the mega ICC event.

Kumar’s final over, when he was defending 13 runs against de Villiers, was very good as well, a six notwithstanding. Jason Holder had bowled an excellent penultimate over, removing the dangerous-looking Shahbaz Ahmed and making things tougher for RCB. But the bowler who filled the viewers’ senses was Umran Malik. On a sluggish deck, he touched 152kph, hurrying the batsmen and surprising Maxwell with a wicked bouncer. The 21-year-old fast bowler from Jammu & Kashmir has a future India player written all over him if he doesn’t lose his way.

Maxwell’s form

In hindsight, given the slowness of the surface, Kohli’s decision to bat second was a wrong one. SRH’s total, 141, was challenging, for the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat and the degree of difficulty for batsmen was increasing with every passing over. Maxwell’s brain and brawn – 40 off 25 balls – kept RCB in the chase to a large extent. However, irrespective of the defeat in this game, his form will encourage the franchise, going into the knockouts.

This is how Maxwell has been going of late: 56 off 37 balls against Mumbai Indians, 50 not out off 30 balls against Rajasthan Royals, and 57 off 33 balls against Punjab Kings. RCB’s upsurge in form has coincided with Maxwell’s golden run. Three wins on the spin before this match has taken them to the Playoffs.

When RCB roped in Maxwell for Rs 14.25 crore at the 2021 IPL auction, the Australian was going through a tough period, battling mental health issues. Later, he publicly spoke about Kohli’s support for him. The 32-year-old has been repaying the debt ever since.

Partnership batting

A 70-run partnership between Jason Roy and Williamson proved to be pivotal. SRH promoted Abhishek Sharma to pinch-hit at the top. But after hitting a four and a six off George Garton, the youngster got out. Williamson announced his arrival at the crease with a delightful drive off Mohammed Siraj followed by a pull to the deep square leg boundary.

Roy gradually grew into the game and SRH had a very decent Powerplay – 50/1. To Kohli’s credit, his proactive captaincy worked to RCB’s advantage. After the first strategic time-out, when Yuzvendra Chahal bowled a pretty ordinary over, Kohli straightaway brought back Harshal Patel. The latter castled Williamson and claimed three wickets to take his tournament tally to 29.

For RCB, help also arrived from an unexpected quarter, as Dan Christian rolled back the years. The 38-year-old is not known for giving consecutive breakthroughs. His job is to keep things tight in the middle overs. But Christian accounted for Priyam Garg with a short-of-a-length delivery that cramped the batsman for room before taking a blinder off his own bowling to dismiss Roy in the same over.

This resulted in SRH losing momentum. During a phase, they lost four wickets in five overs for just 31 runs. But their bowlers stood up to be counted.

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