NOT LONG ago in a land not too far from the Chinnaswamy Stadium, a hotly-contested mega T20 final entered the last over with the favourites needing 19 runs to win the title.
Kumar kept landing yorker after yorker on the right spot, leaving the RCB lower-order haplessly out of depth, and even though the final ball went for four, the Sunrisers dug-out had emptied onto the ground and Warner had screamed more than a dozen times already by the time the ball reached the boundary. And, yes Sunrisers lifted the IPL 2016 title.
This year too they didn’t disappoint with performances, though missing Mustafizur, they could very well pull off with their star strike bowler Bhuvneswar Kumar and a new one on blocks – Rashid Khan.
The defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) made headlines by buying Rashid Khan (4 crores) and Mohammad Nabi (30 lakh) at this year’s auction, making them first cricketers from Afghanistan to play in Indian Premier League.
Another surprise pick from the SRH franchise was uncapped Indian youngster Mohammad Siraj, who was bought for Rs 2.6 crore. While Tanmay Agarwal (10 lakh), Ekalavya Dwivedi (75 lakh), Tambe (10 lakh), Chris Jordan (50 lakh) and Ben Laughlin (30 lakh) were the other players added to the squad.
Champions from last season, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, haven’t tinkered around with their squad. The playing eleven looked well settled with the batting department heavily loaded with attacking batsmen such as David Warner, Dhawan, Kane Williamson and Yuvraj Singh. The bowling department, which performed exceptionally last season, too looked good with Mustafizur Rahman and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar set to lead the attack. However, Mustafizur missed the initial phase.
They started off the season with a win against RCB. Sunrisers Hyderabad once again posted a 200-plus total and defended it successfully after an early scare. This 207 was Sunrisers’ second-highest IPL score, one behind the score they amassed in the final last year. Sunrisers’ captain David Warner seemed to be repeating his lines from the final but it was Yuvraj Singh’s sublime 62 off 27 that set up the 200 score after Moises Henriques provided him with the springboard with 52 off 37. In response, Chris Gayle looked threatening as Royal Challengers raced away to 43 for 0 in four overs. Missing Mustafizur Rahman, the Sunrisers found a new hero in Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who took the wheels of the chase off with quick leg-breaks, with two wickets on his IPL debut. From there on there was no looking back for this young man.
Meanwhile, in the second match against Gujarat Lions, Rashid ended the match with figures of 3/19 in four overs, which helped him get his hands on the Purple cap for a brief period. But Rashid once again provided David Warner with a breakthrough in his first over of the match as he got rid of the dangerman Brendon McCullum.
Against Mumbai Indians, Rashid dismissed skipper Rohit Sharma in his first over but could not save Hyderabad from a 4-wicket defeat.
In his fourth match against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens, Rashid once again picked the prized wicket of skipper Gautam Gambhir in his first over of the match to keep his unique run going in the Indian Premier League.
With 25 wickets, Bhuvneswar Kumar had left his competitors in the top wicket-takers’ list far behind. In the middle, they suffered two quick losses against Mumbai and Kolkata. But with Warner’s runs and his bowlers’ awesome show, the team reached the third Position. 641 runs placed Warner atop the batting charts this IPL season
HOW IT ALL ENDED:
Rain in Bangalore had meant the start of the second innings of a game that commenced on Wednesday evening had been pushed by over three hours. It also meant that Sunrisers Hyderabad had a meagre 48 to defend in six overs in order to continue their title defence. All that defending champions could eventually manage was 128 for seven.
For a moment, around 1 am on Thursday, the fans of SRH believed in Bhuvneshwar’s magic. He had the dangerous Chris Lynn caught behind, and followed it up by running out Yusuf Pathan on the next delivery. Kolkata Knight Riders beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by seven wickets in a rain-marred match as they chased down a reduced 48-run target in 5.2 overs in their eliminator, Thus hopes shuttered.
Warner and Bhuvneshwar were the protagonists who stood out for SRH. Warner had Dhawan to keep him company with a decent show of 479 runs. Like last season, the duo had been rock-solid at the top for the men from Hyderabad.
This year’s surprise package was from Afghanistan, as Bhvuneshwar found a new ally in the leg-spin of Rashid Khan. Mohammad Nabi’s tight off-spinners whenever called upon in the few games that he played further strengthened Hyderabad.
At the same time, Moises Henriques’ bowling stood out as a major disappointment as the Australian all-rounder could strike only once. He was consistent with the bat but leaked runs with the ball.
While Siddharth Kaul and Mohammad Siraj tried to fill in for the void left by Henriques’ poor form and Ashish Nehra’s absence because of fitness issues for most of the IPL, they could not consistently win games on their own for SRH.
Kaul with his knuckleball slower delivery and Siraj with his aggression showcased flashes of brilliance but could not take the team to victory in games.
Similarly, Yuvraj Singh could have made up for their weakness in the lower half of their batting unit but was a silent figure in the middle part of the tournament.
Kane Williamson capitalised on the few opportunities he had to emerge as one of the best batsmen in the world currently.
Throughout the season, SRH had one of the worse run-rates in the powerplay. Maybe, more power down the order would have allowed Warner & Co to play with greater freedom at the top.
In the eliminator, the rain had made a mockery of an already mediocre total. But, more importantly, it had robbed SRH of a possible victory against a demoralised Royal Challengers Bangalore outfit earlier in the season.
The rain had forced a no-result, which meant Bangalore and Hyderabad shared a point each. A victory then would have handed Warner’s men an additional point, which would have placed them above Pune after the league stage.
A second-place finish would have handed SRH two shots at making the final. But, it was not to be. Maybe, their not so good lower-order batting itself did not compel them a shot to defend their title.
Next year, when the teams undergo an overhaul, SRH will hope to beef up their all-round batting prowess.
David Warner (c), Naman Ojha (wk), Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra, Mustafizur Rahman, Bipul Sharma, Vijay Shankar, Deepak Hooda, Barinder Sran, Moises Henriques, Ricky Bhui, Ben Cutting, Mohammad Nabi, Eklavya Dwivedi, Pravin Tambe, Tanmay Agarwal, Rashid Khan, Kane Williamson, Shikhar Dhawan, Abhimanyu Mithun, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddarth Kaul, Mohammad Siraj, Chris Jordan, Ben Laughlin.
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