The Ring of Fire awaited a mouth-watering clash between SRH and DC tonight. After their massive slip up the last match, SRH had relinquished their playoff qualification rights in the hands of the other franchises. But, if they still want to have a chance of moving to the playoffs, they need to win everything from here on. Their NRR is a huge positive if it comes down to that. DC, on the other hand, is threatening to be the KXIP of this year. They began the tournament well with successive wins, but are now on a 2-match losing spree. Their batting line-up has suddenly lost form and Iyer was indeed looking forward to this game, to return to winning ways.
DC won the toss and chose to field. SRH welcomed back Williamson into the setup but took a very bold call of leaving out Bairstow. Warner and Bairstow have formed one of the most devastating opening partnerships in IPL and it was a courageous call to leave out the English WC. Warner understood that their bowling is looking extremely weak in the absence of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and stuck to Jason Holder as the strike-bowler of the attack, instead of bolstering the batting by adding Bairstow.
Wriddhiman Saha is an example of how cricket is a great leveler. 4-5 weeks ago, Saha was criticized tremendously for his intent less inning against KKR, where he was not able to time a single ball. In fact Warner came out in public to criticize Saha’s intent and along expected lines, Saha did not play a single match after that. This was his first match after that KKR match and that diminutive understated man came out with a point to prove tonight.
Before I get to Warner and Saha, I would like to point out the inexplicable strategy of the DC bowlers. On this same pitch, CSK vs RCB match was played a couple of nights ago and their RCB bowlers struggled because they were primarily hit-the-deck kind of bowlers. The slow pitch did not aid the likes of Saini, Siraj, or Morris as their short balls sat up to be hit rather than soaring past the chin of the batsmen. Ruturaj and Rayudu pulled the express pace of Saini and Morris with disdain to race CSK to victory. However, DC bowlers did not learn from their RCB counterparts. Rabada, Nortje, and Deshpande kept on banging it hard on the pitch making it easy for both Warner and Saha. There were no off-cutters or leg-cutters on display in the first 6 overs and Saha and Warner made merry by scoring 77 in the powerplay.
Saha’s knock was mature as he was not merely slogging the ball. He was waiting for the right ball and timing it to good effect. It takes quite a bit of skill to time the deliveries on sluggish pitches and Saha precisely did that. He took advantage of the disproportionate square boundaries intelligently as he cut and pulled with great effectiveness. The flow of Saha rubbed on to Warner as he started unleashing himself on a hapless DC attack, that clearly ran out of ideas.
Even experienced bowlers like Ashwin and Axar started delivering over-pitched deliveries allowing the SRH openers to continue the carnage even after the powerplay. Ashwin finally dismissed Warner caught at extra-cover but the extravagant Saha continued at the other end with his onslaught. In fact, I loved the way Wriddhiman played with the DC field manipulating the gaps to good effect.
Twice in the innings, Stoinis and Nortje tried to double-bluff Wriddhiman. Stoinis bowled a short ball with third-man up and got cutely guided to the boundary. Nortje bowled a half-volley with mid-off up and got driven straight down the ground. Premeditation was not a word Saha had in his dictionary tonight.
Finally, he got out for 87, missing a well-deserved century. Manish Pandey and Williamson applied the finishing touches to take the SRH total to a massive 219 off 20 overs.
DC began the second inning in an absolute bizarre fashion. DC batsmen looked determined to ensure Warner’s every plan turned successful. Sandeep Sharma was brought in the very first over because he bowls a natural away-swinger to the left-hander and Dhawan has had troubles with outswing through his career. In the first ball of the inning, Dhawan closed the bat face early, edging one to mid-off. In the very next over, Shahbaz Nadeem was brought on to test Marcus Stoinis, who has had troubles with left-arm spin in BBL. Instead of being cautious against the left-arm spin of Nadeem Stoinis hit one in the air and holed out to mid-off once again.
Then it was time for the Rashid-magic. I have told time and again, in my blogs that Rashid seems a different bowler, the moment you give him a wicket off the first over. He broke the backbone of the DC middle-order today, scalping Hetmeyer, Axar, and Rahane. Out of the 3 dismissals, Rahane and Hetmeyer did not read the googly and it speaks volumes of Rashid’s abilities. Even after so many years of IPL, still, top batsmen find it difficult to read his googly at times. Tonight he ended with dream figures of 4-0-7-3 at an economy of less than 2 per over in 12 runs per over chase.
DC succumbed to its 3rd defeat in a row as SRH stay afloat in the competition. DC has 2 tough games coming up against RCB and MI. We have seen last year with Kings XI and KKR, how a losing streak can overturn the table. Will the same happen this year for DC? Let’s wait to find that out.