Sunrisers Hyderabad 132 for 4 (Williamson 50*, Holder 24*) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 131 for 7 (de Villiers 56, Finch 32, Holder 3-25, Natarajan 2-33) by six wickets
Two Test captains saw a jittery Sunrisers Hyderabad chase of 132 through, and their shirts and hair had sweat to show for it. Brought into the side after they failed to chase 127 against the Kings XI Punjab, Kane Williamson and Jason Holder absorbed all the pressure from the spinners on a turning pitch, saw the asking rate of eight when they came together nudge 10, but finished off the game in calculated manner with two balls to go. This was the Sunrisers’ fourth straight win in a must-win game, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s fifth straight loss after an excellent start to their season. The Sunrisers set up a virtual semi-final with the Delhi Capitals for the right to play the Mumbai Indians in the final.
Having recovered successfully from the injuries during the season to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mitchell Marsh and Vijay Shankar, the Sunrisers were now missing the man significantly responsible for their comeback, Wriddhiman Saha. The Royal Challengers had to contend with their talisman Chris Morris’ absence, out with a quad injury. They made wholesale changes, punting on two legspinners and also getting Moeen Ali and Aaron Finch in.
On a pitch that offered both seam and spin, the bowlers from both sides were on top of their games. Eventually, only AB de Villiers and Williamson rose above the conditions, and they had to score their runs without taking risks because they didn’t have batting cover behind them.
If Sandeep doesn’t get you, Jason will
Sandeep Sharma came into the match with nine wickets in the powerplay this IPL, and Jason Holder none. Opening for the first time this IPL – perhaps he wanted to try it sooner but his side couldn’t seal the playoff spot befire their last match – Virat Kohli was watchful in the first over, keen not to fall to Sharma an eighth time. Holder, though, got a glove from him down the leg side with his extra bounce. He then cramped up Devdutt Padikkal on the pull, making it a third Padikkal dismissal to a short ball this IPL. Padikkal has scored just 46 off 50 such balls.
AB plays himself in, others play themselves out
In as early as the fourth over, de Villiers had no choice but to eschew any risk. He would go 20 balls before hitting his first boundary and reaching a run a ball. It was imperative that Finch take the pressure off, but life at the pitch was a struggle for him. He struggled to adjust to the pace of the surface, and was stifled by the accuracy of the Sunrisers bowlers. The first 10 overs featured just four boundaries, the joint-fewest in the tournament, all off the bat of Finch.
Just as he looked like he might be turning a corner with a big six off Rashid Khan, Finch holed out to deep cover with Shahbaz Nadeem defeating him with a wide one as he backed away early. Ali walked out with a red carpet of a free hit rolled out for him, but he patted it to extra cover and ran himself out thanks to a Khan direct hit. The Royal Challengers were 62 for 4 in 10.4 overs.
AB masterclass looms
Between the Sunrisers and a facile chase stood the genius of de Villiers. Having scored 20 off 22 so far, with one edged boundary, de Villiers was just entering the genius phase of the innings. Without taking risks – he couldn’t afford to – de Villiers still managed to score 36 off the next 21 balls he faced. However, the Sunrisers were excellent against the others – Shivam Dube and Washington Sundar – bowling 19 balls to them without a boundary. The Royal Challengers were 111 for 5 in 17 overs.
The Natarajan masterclass
There was still time for de Villiers to do damage. Teams know he can still win matches even from here, especially when he is 40-plus balls into an innings. T Natarajan then had an unenviable task to bowl overs 18 and 20. He has had an unenviable task all season, bowling the really difficult overs for his side. He came into the playoffs with 14 wickets to his name, 10 in the death overs. In the 18th he made it 12. Sundar was regulation, timing a chip too well and getting caught at deep cover.
The next one was one for the ages. A cross-seam yorker, dipping and beating the master and ripping the middle stump out of the ground. This just brought the total crashing down with just 20 runs coming off the last three.
Warner is sent off
Mohammed Siraj removed Saha’s replacement, Shreevats Goswami, in the first over, but David Warner and Manish Pandey staged a recovery after playing themselves in against the seaming ball. Pandey broke free first, and in the final powerplay over, Warner, too, cut Siraj for two boundaries. Then he survived an appeal for caught behind. Or so he thought. The Royal Challengers took the matter upstairs. Replays showed this delivery pass the bat and pad at the same time, and there was a spike on UltraEdge. In a decision bound to cause controversy, the third umpire felt it was conclusive enough for him to overturn the on-field call. The Sunrisers 43 for 2 in 5.4 overs.
The spin choke is on
That Warner wicket was huge not only because of Sunrisers’ middle-overs troubles, but because of the Royal Challengers’ attack composition. Warner feasts on legspin: he averages 61 and goes at 9.1 an over against legspin. Now they could unleash both their legspinners at right-hand batsmen. Pandey soon fell to the pressure created. Fourteen bowls of legspin for seven runs later, he played an ambitious late-cut and toe-ended to de Villiers. Priyam Garg faced 14 balls of legspin for seven runs himself. Then tried to drive over cover but holed out to the boundary rider. Six overs, 20 runs, two wickets.
Test captains come together
With 64 required off the last eight overs, came together Williamson and Holder, two of the calmest players in international cricket, two players used to carrying their sides with them. They kept picking the singles, not worrying about the rising asking rate. Kohli had to eventually take the legspinners off. With 59 required off 38, Williamson tried to hit his first boundary, slog-sweeping Sundar as he overpitched. That took him to 19 off 25.
Back came the legspinners. Back came the boundary drought. Back it went to 41 off 25. Out came the slog sweep again as Chahal overpitched this time. Williamson reached a run-a-ball 32 with this. Now Kohli had to go to pace. The dew began to play its part too. Navdeep Saini and Siraj took the high-risk route of bowling yorkers with both third man and fine leg up. While it provided them cover down the ground, a deft batsman such as Williamson kept finding the boundaries and twos behind square to never let the asking rate go past nine. And Holder then killed it off with two fours in the last over. The 65-run partnership comprised just two sixes and five fours.