Daredevils bat, Bhuvneshwar returns for Sunrisers

Toss: Delhi Daredevils chose to bat v Sunrisers Hyderabad. Shreyas Iyer, the Delhi Daredevils captain, has chosen to bat first at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. His stated reason for doing so was the apparent dryness of the pitch, but his choice may also have been dictated by how good Sunrisers Hyderabad have been at defending totals: they have won their last three games after posting 118, 132 and 151. Sunrisers’ only two losses of the season, moreover, have come while chasing relatively big targets: 194 against Kings XI Punjab and 183 against Chennai Super Kings. Daredevils have accordingly beefed up their batting, bringing in an extra batsman, Naman Ojha, for the left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, and replaced opener Colin Munro with an allrounder in Daniel Christian to compensate. Sunrisers made just the one change, bringing back Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who missed their last two games with a back injury, for Basil Thampi.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Sandeep Sharma, 11 Siddarth Kaul.

Delhi Daredevils: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Naman Ojha, 3 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 4 Rishabh Pant (wk), 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Liam Plunkett, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Avesh Khan, 11 Trent Boult.

Sunrisers Hyderabad 164 for 3 (Hales 45, Dhawan 33, Yusuf 27*, Mishra 2-19) beat Delhi Daredevils 163 for 5 (Shaw 65, Iyer 44, Rashid 2-23) by seven wickets. How do you beat Sunrisers Hyderabad? It may have felt like a distant memory before Saturday, but Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings showed the other teams a way early in the season: bat first, set a challenging target and expose a slightly suspect batting line-up. On Saturday, Delhi Daredevils did most of that, and put Sunrisers under plenty of pressure, but fell short at a few key moments. Having won the toss and pushed on to 95 for 1 in their first 10 overs, they only managed 68 in their last 10, as Sunrisers’ bowlers reeled them back on a slow, dry track.

Still, 163 was the biggest total any team had managed against Sunrisers this season, and they didn’t always look convincing while chasing it. They profited from a couple of dropped chances, went without a boundary for 36 balls at one point, and eventually needed 14 off the last over. It could have gone either way, and Yusuf Pathan – who had been dropped on 0 by Vijay Shankar on the square-leg boundary – sealed the deal with two meaty hits off Daniel Christian: a straight six off a full-toss, and a four, swiped over short fine leg, off a short ball. Those hits may also have sealed Daredevils’ fate in the tournament. With only three wins from ten games, the playoffs are all but out of reach for them.

That’s what the big screen at the stadium said after Prithvi Shaw hit his first boundary of the match, a straight six off Sandeep Sharma. By the end of the 10th over, Shaw had made 65 off 35 balls, out of Daredevils’ 95 for 1. The other end, despite some sparkling shots from Shreyas Iyer, had only made 30 off 25. Part of the reason for Shaw’s rate of scoring was the hardness of the new ball, which made up somewhat for a slow pitch. But it also had something to do with Shaw’s range of strokes: case in point the last over of the Powerplay, delivered by Siddarth Kaul.

Before this game, Kaul had conceded only 59 off 62 short and short-of-good-length balls this season. After a fullish knuckle ball that Shaw launched over the long-on boundary, Kaul pulled his length back, delivering three short or shortish balls. Two were angled into the body to try and cramp Shaw for room, and the other was only marginally outside off stump. None of them was a rank bad ball, and Shaw put all three away for four, to three different parts of the ground.

The Shaw, however, didn’t go on past the first ball of the 11th over, an attempted sweep off Rashid Khan looping to short third man off the outside edge. Daredevils slowed down considerably after that. This was partly down to the older ball becoming difficult to hit, and mostly to Sunrisers’ bowling and tactics. Rashid bowled three of the seven overs from the 11th to the 17th, varying his pace and getting some balls to grip the surface while others hurried on; Bhuvneshwar Kumar sent down his third over in the 14th to try and keep the pressure on; and Kaul and Sandeep varied their pace excellently.

The changes of pace were particularly effective against Rishabh Pant, who kept losing his shape while trying to launch himself into slower balls angling away from him. He only scored 18 off 18 before falling to Rashid in the 17th over. By that time, Daredevils were 135 for 5. They went without a boundary for 18 balls before Shankar clattered a six and a four off Bhuvneshwar in the 20th over to move Daredevils past 160.

This was only Alex Hales’ second match of the season, but belatedly or not, his inclusion has given Sunrisers the top-order muscle they possibly lacked without David Warner. Today he muscled 45 off 31 balls, and 28 off 9 came off one bowler. Avesh Khan. The 21-year old kept bowling short, and kept getting hit by Hales and, occasionally, Shikhar Dhawan. There were two fours in the second over, and four sixes in the sixth. Perhaps it was a plan, for Hales miscued one pull, on 9, only for Glenn Maxwell to drop a sitter at deep square leg. That apart, it didn’t work, and the opening pair added 76 in nine overs.

It took a beauty to end the opening stand, an Amit Mishra legbreak that pitched on leg, beat the outside edge, and hit the top of off, its flat trajectory rooting Hales to the crease. Dhawan played all around a full ball in Mishra’s next over and was bowled for 33 off 30, his strike rate reflecting the not necessarily straightforward batting conditions as well as a conservative, let’s-get-our-eye-in approach from all of Sunrisers’ top order barring Hales.

The third-wicket stand between Kane Williamson and Manish Pandey – which featured lots of singles to deep fielders and not a lot of high-risk shots – brought only 21 runs in its first 22 balls, at which stage Sunrisers needed 57 off 32 balls. But Pandey struck a pair of fours off Christian, and Williamson followed up with an uppercut six off Avesh in the next over, suggesting these were the bowlers Sunrisers wanted to target. It was a fairly well-executed strategy. The two of them ended up conceding 84 in 6.5 overs, and the rest of Daredevils’ bowlers just 80 off 13.