The battle of bowlers went down to the wire. Sunrisers Hyderabad held their nerve to win a cliff-hanger because they had two mature heads in the middle, negotiating tricky conditions. Royal Challengers Bangalore valiantly tried to defend 131.
But an unbroken 65-run partnership between two international captains – New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and West Indies’ Jason Holder – secured a six-wicket win for SRH with two balls to spare. Hyderabad moved to Qualifier 2 on Sunday, where they will face Delhi Capitals for a place in the final. RCB go home, but Virat Kohli and Co can take pride in their effort.
Kane, the able
In the context of the game, the 17th over during SRH’s chase was crucial. Yuzvendra Chahal and Adam Zampa, the two frontline RCB spinners who conceded 36 runs in their eight overs for two wickets, were done for the game and Kohli had to choose between Washington Sundar, Moeen Ali and Shivam Dube. The RCB skipper chose medium pace and Dube by and large kept it tight, just giving away a boundary off the fifth ball of his only over.
Williamson, a class act, was approaching the victory target clinically. He played out the spin duo, kept calm even towards the end and targeted one boundary per over, as the asking rate hovered around nine. He picked the gaps to precision to remain unbeaten on 50 off 44 balls.
There was a heart-in-the-mouth moment for Sunrisers fans though, when batting on 37, Williamson flicked a full-toss from Navdeep Saini towards the deep-leg boundary. Devdutt Padikkal made a fantastic attempt but his feet got stuck in the grass and instead of lobbing the ball upwards near the rope, he threw it in front. Williamson survived. Fortune favoured the great.
Things started to get tight for SRH, when David Warner was given out caught behind off Mohammed Siraj on referral. The on-field umpire had negated the appeal, but the TV umpire relied on a spike on Ultra Edge despite replays being inconclusive. Manish Pandey couldn’t build on a good start, but SRH had Williamson, and also Holder, who hit consecutive fours in the final over to seal the deal.
Holder holds sway
RCB brought back Aaron Finch for Josh Philippe – one of four changes – for the Eliminator, but Virat Kohli opened the innings with Devdutt Padikkal. The RCB captain showed intent by taking first strike and going full-stretch forward to negotiate Sandeep Sharma’s swing.
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The Abu Dhabi pitch had a bit of grass cover and the top surface looked pretty hard, which helped the 6ft-7in Jason Holder in extracting bounce. Kohli was done in by it; a good- length ball that rose inward and took the glove down leg-side to Shreevats Goswami behind the stumps. It was a good beginning for Goswami, replacing the injured Wriddhiman Saha and even a better one for SRH and Holder.
The ball wasn’t coming on to the bat and the SRH bowlers bowled to a plan – not to offer any room to the batsmen. Padikkal got frustrated, chose the wrong ball to play a pull and was nicely taken at short mid-wicket by Priyam Garg. Once again, Holder had made the ball bounce a bit more off a length and the left-hander was in no position to play the shot. Holder set the tone for the rest of the SRH bowling to follow.
As the match progressed, the pitch started to behave a tad up and down as well, although it wasn’t offering any turn. The experienced Shahbaz Nadeem and Rashid Khan bowled wicket-to-wicket to keep Finch and AB de Villiers in check. RCB finished the Powerplay on 32/2. Nadeem had a spring in his step, as he looked to be enjoying teasing Finch.
The Aussie has been all over the place in this IPL. Sometimes he stayed deep in the crease and sometimes well outside it. All the while, he has struggled to find the right rhythm. Finch was trying to make room, Nadeem was following him down the leg-side. Then, he intelligently bowled one a little outside the off-stump. Finch’s trigger movement had already taken him outside leg. He reached out to clear the deep cover boundary, but hit it straight to Abdul Samad – excellent cricket from the left-arm spinner.
Under pressure, RCB even gave away a wicket off a free hit. Nadeem had bowled a no-ball but came back well to fire in a yorker for the free hit. Moeen Ali hit it firmly to Rashid at extra cover and ran. A direct hit dismissed him for a golden duck.
From that point onwards, RCB were reliant on de Villiers. The conditions were difficult enough to hinder even the great man’s natural game. He struggled to time the ball properly but still made a 43-ball 56. De Villiers had to take the game deep, but when the time arrived to throw the kitchen sink, T Natarajan bowled him with a yorker that he can be proud of.
The entire RCB innings had 10 fours and one six, which spoke volumes for the SRH bowling discipline.
Brief scores: RCB 131/7 in 20 overs (AB de Villiers 56, A Finch 32; J Holder 3/25, T Natarajan 2/33) lost to SRH 132/4 in 19.4 overs (K Williamson 50*, J Holder 24*, M Pandey 24; M Siraj 2/28) by six wickets
Qualifier 2: Delhi Capitals vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Sunday, 7.30pm
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