Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) finally breaks out of their three-match losing streak with a comprehensive victory over Punjab Kings. In yet another display mimicking their collapse against CSK, the Punjab Kings batting line-up failed to fire off, bundled off for a paltry 120 runs.
The toss, won by Punjab, was perhaps the only thing to go their way. Hyderabad faced yet another potential nightmare, being asked to chase, a feat they had botched spectacularly in their last three outings. Both teams, coming into the match with consecutive losses, scampered to make new additions to their playing eleven. While Punjab brought in Moises Henriques and Fabian Allen for their PBKS debut, SRH welcomed back the trusty Kane Williamson and bestowed the orange cap on their newest recruit, Kedar Jadhav. Siddharth Kaul was also brought back to the mix.
SRH skipper David Warner’s decision to bowl young spinner Abhishek Sharma first raised quite a few eyebrows. But Sharma proved his mettle in the very first over, almost dismissing opener Mayank Agarwal, if not for the catch dropped by Rashid Khan. But the Sunrisers didn’t have to wait long to score their first wicket. The PBKS captain, K L Rahul was dismissed cheaply for just 4 runs by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar in the third over. Rashid Khan also took the excellent catch of Agarwal off Khalil Ahmed, redeeming himself for the dropped catch earlier, sending him back for 22 off 24 balls. Punjab Kings were already off to a rocky start, posting one of the lowest powerplay scores of 32 for the loss of two wickets.
Any hopes of wresting control from the dominating SRH were crushed as Punjab lost Nicholas Pooran for a diamond duck. The power-hitter was run out by a beautiful direct hit to the stumps by Warner, earning the third duck in his four innings this tournament. The key battle between the Universe Boss, Chris Gayle, and SRH’s best bowler, Rashid, was easily swayed in the latter’s favor, Gayle departing for 15 runs. Rashid sent Gayle back to the pavilion with an ‘lbw’, racking up his 5th dismissal of the man in 11 match-ups. Deepak Hooda was dismissed for 13 in a similar fashion by Sharma, who earned his first wicket of the day. The youngster scored a second when Henriques moved forward to swing hard but missed. Jonny Bairstow was quick to take advantage of the empty crease and send Henriques walking with a stump out and a score of 14 runs. Punjab Kings were suddenly staring at a dismal score of 82-6 near the end of 14 overs.
Allen, brought into the side to strengthen their lower order, failed to deal much damage, hitting just 6 runs off 11 balls. Ahmed took the pace off this delivery, deceiving Allen into splicing it straight into the hands of a diving Warner. Shahrukh Khan tried to bring their team back on track with two stunning maximums but his stint was cut short by Ahmed striking once again with the slower ball. Khan holed it straight to Sharma at the ropes in an attempt to hit it out of the park. With just two wickets remaining in the bag, PBKS crumbled under the pressure, being bowled out for 120 at 19.4 overs. It was undoubtedly a clinical effort by the SRH bowlers to restrict their opponents to such a low total. Ahmed and Sharma emerged as the pick of the bowlers, finishing with impressive figures of 21-3 and 24-2 respectively.
Chasing totals at Chepauk has been SRH’s Achilles Heel in this tournament so far. But having a comfortably achievable target does wonder for a struggling batting unit. Bairstow and Warner cruised through the powerplay, finding boundaries and maximums with practiced flair. The opening pair raced to 50 runs within the powerplay at a healthy run rate per over. These quick runs proved to be crucial as the wicket slowed down in the subsequent overs, as it usually does. The opportunity for the next big hit after the first six overs only presented itself again in the 9th over. Despite boundaries being scarce, the batsmen showcased their calm and patient demeanor in chasing down the total. Warner and Bairstow have always unfailing garnered praise for their remarkable running with the wickets which is absolutely essential on a pitch where the ball doesn’t come on the bat nicely.
The two stitched together a partnership of 73 runs before Warner targeted the longer boundary and got caught by Agarwal near deep mid-wicket, with 37 runs to his name. The wicket by Allen was desperately needed by Punjab but unfortunately for them, it might have come too late, halfway through the second innings. Allen’s over will later stand out as the only maiden-wicket over of the match. It was right about then that SRH fans began to show signs of distress since the team had toppled from a similar position before, after losing their skipper.
But the presence of the veteran batsman, Williamson proved to be all the difference in this run-chase. With a stable partner who’s an expert at rotating strike, playing spin, and essentially anchoring the innings, Bairstow could continue fearlessly. After Warner’s poor attempt at a big hit, both the batsmen at the crease played with caution. And this caution definitely paid off. Bairstow coasted to his hard-earned half-century with an authoritative pullover square leg. He found a newfound surge of confidence with victory on the horizon, muscling a soaring last-minute six in the 19th over. With just one run required, Arshdeep Singh bowled a wide, sealing the first win of the season for the orange army.
Bairstow, unbeaten at 63 off 56 balls, was absolutely key for the Sunrisers to break out of their slump. With Williamson back in their side and Sharma proving his worth as a genuine permanent companion to Rashid Khan, SRH may have finally found their balance. On the flip side, with a third consecutive loss, Punjab Kings’ early promise with their first win falters in the face of repeated failures. Will this season be a repeat of the last where Punjab corners themselves into a situation where every game must be a win for them to clear the league stage? For now, Punjab languishes at the bottom of the points table with their disastrous performance.
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