Khaleel is first among equals. Jonny boy does the rest.
Sunrisers Hyderabad got their team selection right, and were rewarded with a resounding nine-wicket win. After their first three matches, they were rock bottom. Their net run rate was gasping for an upgrade. On Wednesday at Chepauk, after bundling out Punjab Kings for 120, they won with eight balls remaining.
Bowlers did the job for SRH. Khaleel Ahmed with three wickets was first among equals. After that, David Warner and Jonny Bairstow put on 73 runs for the opening wicket. The latter stayed till the end to make the win hiccup-free. Punjab, in their first match in Chennai, allowed conditions to get the better of them.
First among equals
Khaleel is a talented left-arm pacer, good enough to play 11 ODIs and 14 T20Is. But inconsistency hasn’t served him well. A fractured wrist early in 2020 was a setback as well. On Wednesday, slower deliveries did the trick for him.
Mayank Agarwal mistimed a pull and was caught by Rashid Khan at mid-wicket. The Punjab opener had had a reprieve in the very first over, Rashid dropping him off Abhishek Sharma on nought. On a day when KL Rahul fell cheaply, Agarwal was Punjab’s biggest hope for a good total. He failed to capitalise on the early life.
Fabian Allen, too, was taken out by a short-of-a-length slower ball, the batsman slicing it to extra cover. Khaleel’s third victim was Shahrukh Khan, who was impressive, but went for a slog to a slower delivery in the penultimate over. His team was crawling and the youngster had to chance his arm.
Spare a thought for Abhishek Sharma, who dismissed Deepak Hooda and Moises Henriques, two hard hitters, to give Sunrisers a significant advantage. An arm ball foxed Hooda, while Henriques was done in by a flighted delivery.
On a dark and dry Chepauk pitch, it was never easy for Punjab to get into the groove straightaway. At the same time, their batting beyond the opening pair doesn’t inspire much confidence. When Rahul and Agarwal fire, Punjab revel. Chris Gayle, despite being the x-factor, has become more of a gamble at this stage of his career.
Adding to Punjab’s troubles, their best bowler hasn’t started to fire on all cylinders yet. Coming into this IPL, Mohammed Shami hadn’t played any cricket after suffering a broken arm in Adelaide in December last year. His radar is still not working.
Warner slashed him for a four to put pressure on the bowler right at the outset. Allen bowled the next over and Bairstow took a four and a six.
To make matters worse, Punjab missed a run-out – Sunrisers’ ground fielding was excellent on the contrary – when Bairstow was 15. Punjab looked to have thrown in the towel a little too early.
Sunrisers, though, had to ensure there was no middle-overs meltdown. So, it was important for Bairstow to carry on. He did that, scoring 63 not out off 56 balls. Kane Williamson, back to full fitness, offered an assured presence alongside the opener. Sunrisers had missed his class and calmness in the previous three matches.