New Delhi, India (BBN)-Sunrisers Hyderabad possess perhaps the best – and certainly the most in-form – pace attack in the IPL, and this proved decisive in bowler-friendly conditions that produced a low-scoring thriller against Rising Pune Supergiants in Visakhapatnam.
There was turn, and R Ashwin and Adam Zampa – whose figures of 6 for 19 were the second-best in the tournament’s history – helped keep Sunrisers to 137, but there was also swing for the new ball, a bit of bounce, and grip for Mustafizur Rahman’s cutters, reports ESPNcricinfo.
The chase was a chess game.
MS Dhoni promoted George Bailey and Ashwin to Nos. 3 and 4 after the early loss of both openers, with the third-wicket pair ostensibly instructed to push the ball around and stabilise Supergiants’ innings, given the modest required rate.
Bailey and Ashwin put on 49 in eight overs, and when the partnership ended Supergiants needed 70 from 48 balls.
Dhoni didn’t walk in then; he came in with 60 required from 40.
It eventually came down to 42 off the last four, and Dhoni and Thisara Perera, conscious of the risk of hitting out against Mustafizur, were content to take singles and twos against the left-armer.
The ploy kept Mustafizur wicketless, even as he conceded only 13 off his last two overs.
Dhoni and Perera made up for that in the 18th over, in which they took 15 off Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but they were still left needing 14 from the last over.
Ashish Nehra started the final over with a full ball that Perera couldn’t get under, and then a perfect yorker that Dhoni could only hit for one.
Perera skied the third ball to extra cover, leaving 12 to get off the last three.
Dhoni hammered the first of them – a full toss – over the wide long-on boundary, but when he was run-out going for a second that didn’t really exist – he went for it because he simply had to – Zampa was left needing to hit a six to win it off the last ball, or a four to tie.
He only managed an outside edge to a flying Naman Ojha behind the stumps as Nehra closed the match with a wide yorker.
The win took Sunrisers top of the points table, and left Supergiants with close to no chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
The captain winning the toss had chosen to bowl in each of the 20 IPL games that preceded this one, and David Warner raised a few eyebrows – including Dhoni’s – by opting to bat.
Given the swing and bounce available to the quicks, a traditional good length was a pretty good T20 length as well, and Ashok Dinda and RP Singh, by dint of denying the batsmen width, kept Sunrisers to 34 in the first six overs, while dismissing Warner.
Ashwin, often used sporadically by Dhoni in recent weeks, came on at the start of the non-Powerplay overs, and immediately found the pitch to his liking.
His third ball spun from just outside off stump and turned a long way down the leg side, beating not just the advancing Kane Williamson but Dhoni as well.
His fourth dipped on Shikhar Dhawan, left him searching far out in front of his body for a flick, and ran off the leading edge through point.
Ashwin finished his full quota in one go, dangling the ball above the batsmen’s eyeline and teasing them with dip and turn. He got Dhawan to hole out in his third over, and only conceded one run in his fourth, with two slips breathing down Yuvraj Singh’s neck.
When Ashwin finished his spell, Sunrisers were 70 for 2 in 13 overs. Williamson and Yuvraj hit two fours and two sixes in the next two, off Rajat Bhatia and Perera, before the advancing Yuvraj skewed a Zampa googly to long-off. Williamson and Henriques took 12 off the 17th, bowled by Perera, before Zampa dismissed both of them in the 18th, off successive balls.
Both holed out to long-off, but the bowler played a big role in at least one of the dismissals, forcing Williamson to reach out for a wide legbreak.
Dinda came back for the 19th, and – in hindsight -bowled a match-turning over, conceding 15. The four and six he conceded in that over came off attempted yorkers that didn’t miss the mark by much, but missed it by enough. Ojha whipped away the leg-stump half-volley, and Deepak Hooda deposited the full-toss high over midwicket.
Dhoni, often averse to bowling spinners in the end overs, threw the ball back to Zampa. Hooda ran down and hit his first ball for six, but the bowler saw him stepping out again and fired in a wide legbreak.
Then, off the last three balls of the innings, he bowled Ojha off the thigh pad with a slider, saw RP Singh put a skier down off Barinder Sran at short third man, and had Bhuvneshwar caught at long-on. Little would he have known then, as he walked off smiling, that he would be called on to bat with a boundary required off the last ball of the match.