The SRH of 2018 or 2019 could have chased down a target of 221 with a dazzling Warner-Bairstow partnership. But without David Warner and seemingly haphazard batting order, SRH was never in the running for a win at all.
The SRH management’s game-plan was so spectacularly askew that they’d hope to forget this disaster altogether. Stripping Warner of his captaincy after a lousy stint was controversial enough but dropping him from the XI altogether seems blasphemous. Warner has indubitably been Hyderabad’s highest run-getter, and though Williamson will step into the captain’s shoes effortlessly, the Sunrisers have a night ahead without Warner.
A few optimistic fans even reasoned that Warner stepping down would allow Jason Roy’s debut, bolstering SRH’s dismal batting unit. Imagine their shock and indignation at the realisation that the management couldn’t come to the same conclusion, opting for Mohammad Nabi as an all-rounder instead. Now, not to take away from Nabi’s fantastic spin abilities, but in no universe would he be considered an equal replacement of someone of Warner’s calibre. Especially given that the Sunrisers’ feeble middle order has been exposed time and again.
SRH’s series of catastrophic decisions culminated in them being handed a 55-run loss by the Rajasthan Royals, for whom every gear clicked into place. Despite Bhuvaneshwar Kumar coming back into the attack, nothing was stopping the RR batsmen. It was Buttler’s night through and through, and everyone else was just watching the spectacle unfold before their eyes. The Man of the Match scored his maiden T20 and IPL century in glorious fashion, galloping to a 124 off just 64 deliveries. The Buttler show was sprayed with a whopping 8 maximums and 11 boundaries, the big man striking just under 200.
Williamson’s first major gamble was introducing their trump card, Rashid Khan, right in the powerplay, only the second time since 2017. The intent was there, but unfortunately, it yielded poorly. Not only did SRH lose their review in the third over itself, but Rashid was also unable to strike down the dangerous Buttler. Albeit, he did dismiss Jaiswal with an ‘lbw’, delivering on his reputation as the highest wicket-taker with ‘lbws’ in both the IPL and T20 format. He should have had Buttler’s wicket in his second over in the powerplay if not for the dropped catch by Vijay Shankar. Which begs the question, where is the stringency shown towards Warner when it comes to Vijay Shankar? Shankar has made minuscule contributions to the side for years now, barring a few fluke performances, but he is regularly included.
After being dropped on 6, Buttler just revved up his engine, picking boundaries in almost every over. Skipper Sanju Samson also contributed to the steady flow of runs on the board. Though the men in pink scored only 77 in the first 10 overs, the 143 off the back end with Samson’s knock of 48 drove home RR’s inevitable win. With Rashid bowled out within 11 overs and a free-flow of dropped catches and abysmal fielding, the batsmen at the crease, were bold and daring in their approach. Nabi was held back till the 15th over, which was perplexing enough, in which he conceded 21 runs. Not quite the Warner replacement SRH were hoping for, indeed.
A clever catch by Abdul Samad signalled the end of Samson’s knock, but the Royals were far from done. On the last ball of the 19th over, a tired Buttler dragged Sandeep Sharma’s delivery onto the stumps, but he knew that he’d more than played his part. And the standing ovations awaiting him at the dugout were in complete consensus.
The Sunrisers weren’t done with their mix-ups yet. Manish Pandey, who has never opened even while playing for Karnataka, opened with Jonny Bairstow. The struggle was evident for the Indian, but he soon overcame it, the pair putting up 57 runs during the powerplay. For a moment, the Sunrisers seemed in control of the run-chase, but that illusion collapsed immediately with the dismissals of Pandey and Bairstow in consequent overs by the wiles of Mustafizur Rahman and Rahul Tewatia, respectively. And thus began Hyderabad’s painful struggle to keep up with the ever-mounting required run rate.
Rajasthan’s bowling attack was relentless and never let up the pressure on the batsmen. Even the calm and collected Williamson couldn’t anchor the sinking innings, being dismissed cheaply for 20 off 21 balls by the dynamic Kartik Tyagi. Shankar failed with the bat once again as a surprise to no one. Buttler and Samson barely seemed to find any fielders during their spell. The Hyderabad batsmen seemed intent on hitting the ball straight to the fielders. Apart from the 31 and 30 posted by Pandey and Bairstow, none of the batsmen even touched 20 runs. A shame, really, given that the orange army didn’t have a Buttler of their own. Chris Morris and Mustafizur cleaned up the pesky remains nicely, picking 3 wickets each. Stumbling in from their alternating win-loss history, this lofty win will boost not just their run rate but their morale.
The Sunrisers, on the other hand, languish at the bottom of the table with their solitary win. With half of the tournament behind them, SRH finds themselves in an identical position to the Punjab Kings last year, where the outfit had to win every game from there on out. This comprehensive defeat by RR would serve as an early warning to the SRH management that dropping Warner was far from the winning solution. Additionally, Coach Tom Moody’s allusion to the former captain missing out on more games would be a death sentence to the orange army’s campaign this year. The Sunrisers need to find their winning formula and team combination and find it fast before facing a fate like the Chennai Super Kings last IPL.