Mohammad Nabi and Jonny Bairstow combine to sink Delhi Capitals

Sunrisers Hyderabad 131 for 5 (Bairstow 48) beat Delhi Capitals 129 for 8 (Iyer 43, Nabi 2-21, Bhuvneshwar 2-27, Kaul 2-35) by five wickets. As opposed to using their batting might win their last two matches, Sunrisers Hyderabad took the top position in the points table with a collective and clever bowling display on a low and slow Feroz Shah Kotla pitch. Right from the beginning Delhi Capitals didn’t look like setting a big total and were restricted to 129 for 8, which Sunrisers crossed with an over-and-a-half to spare.

Capitals had botched their last two chases with forgettable collapses and would have been eager to change the trend when they were asked to bat, but they struggled to stitch partnerships against Mohammad Nabi’s spin and a pace attack that used its speed variations smartly. Capitals’ best stand scored 22 runs off as many balls, whereas Sunrisers began the chase with a 64-run opening stand in 41 balls. The hosts managed to strike a few blows late in the chase but the total they had put up wasn’t big enough to give Sunrisers a scare.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Nabi did what they’ve been doing well for some time in the IPL – strangle batsmen early on. After being driven for a four off his first ball by Prithvi Shaw, Bhuvneshwar swung one in to knock back Shaw’s off stump. Nabi went around the wicket to left-handers Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant and Rahul Tewatia and kept cramping them for room, using his classical off-spin and dip.

Nabi accounted for Dhawan, who top-edged a sweep to short fine leg for 12 off the last ball of the Powerplay, in which Capitals only hit two fours and a six. Capitals were then 36 for 2 and their run rate dipped further thereafter. Bhuvneshwar bowled nine dots in his first two overs and Nabi finished with 3-0-18-1 in the Powerplay to set the tone for Sunrisers’ domination.

Having judged the nature of the pitch, Shreyas Iyer and Pant relied on singles and twos before Nabi’s return, and an attempted big hit from Pant broke the stand. Sunrisers’ bowling was well complemented by their fielding efforts too: first, a composed Deepak Hooda pouched Pant at the long-off boundary, and a few overs later Manish Pandey swooped low to his left from point to get his hands under a Colin Ingram cut, leaving Capitals 75 for 5 in the 14th over.

Sandeep Sharma used his knuckleball frequently, and one of them stopped so much on Tewatia, who was promoted to No. 5, that he checked his follow through to balloon a catch to extra-cover. Pant, Ingram and Tewatia had all fallen for five runs each. All this time, Iyer used soft hands to nudge and dab the ball around in largely run-a-ball innings. He was beaten a few times when he tried reading Rashid Khan off the pitch and was eventually bowled by a wrong’un in the 17th over for 41. At 115 for 7 with six balls to go, Capitals found a late lift courtesy two final-over sixes from Axar Patel.

David Warner was on 6 off 11 at the end of the Powerplay, but Sunrisers were coasting at 62 for no loss. This was down to Jonny Bairstow’s audacious shots against the spinners, and his use of the pace offered by Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada to collect 16 and 14 runs in their respective first overs. By the time they began varying their pace, it was too late.

Bairstow swept the first ball he faced, from Sandeep Lamichhane, for four and two overs later struck him for a six and a four off successive balls to make his intentions clear. In between, Axar put down a tough chance off his own bowling when Bairstow was on 5. Bairstow continued his attack against the quicks, and by the time the Powerplay was done, the asking rate was under five an over. Tewatia finally trapped Bairstow lbw for a 28-ball 48 with one that straightened, and even though the batsman reviewed it instantly, ball-tracking suggested the ball would have hit leg stump.

Seven balls after Bairstow departed, Warner found mid-off to depart for 10 before Vijay Shankar steered Sunrisers past the 100 mark. Capitals would have had their tail up when Pandey, Vijay and Hooda gave their wickets away in the space of three overs, and Sunrisers slipped to 111 for 5. But the effect of Bairstow’s walloping had been such that Sunrisers needed only 19 off 24. Rabada ran in with steam in his last two overs, Morris changed his pace and a Yusuf Pathan edge fell short of long-on, but Nabi collected boundaries off both of them in consecutive overs and sealed the chase with a six over third man.