Sunrisers hand Stanlake a debut and bowl; Archer out

Toss Sunrisers Hyderabad opt to bowl v Rajasthan Royals.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Shikhar Dhawan, Kane Williamson (capt), Manish Pandey, Deepak Hooda, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Billy Stanlake, Siddarth Kaul.
Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), D’Arcy Short, Rahul Tripathi, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Laughlin, K Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat.

Kane Williamson, the Sunrisers Hyderabad captain, continued the season’s early trend of captains electing to chase, on his IPL captaincy debut in front of their home fans at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Teams have tended to bat first, mostly, because no 150-plus target has been chased down in the last three IPL seasons in Hyderabad. Sunrisers preferred an overseas fast bowler in Billy Stanlake in place of England batsman Alex Hales, while Rashid Khan and Shakib Al Hasan made up for their overseas complement along with Williamson.

Williamson aside, Sunrisers have a solid Indian batting line-up in Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Deepak Hooda and Yusuf Pathan. Ajinkya Rahane, the Rajasthan Royals captain, announced the inclusion of England’s Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, their costliest acquisition at INR 12.5 crores (US$ 1.92 million), D’Arcy Short, BBL 2017’s highest run-getter, and Ben Laughlin.

Royals preferred to play two spin bowling allrounders in K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal, thereby leaving out Stuart Binny. They also listed Rahul Tripathi, a revelation as an opener for Rising Pune Supergiant last season, in the middle order ,with Short likely to open with Rahane. Both sides were without their designated captains – David Warner and Steven Smith – who were barred from this season because of the ball=tampering scandal in South Africa.

Sunrisers Hyderabad 127 for 1 (Dhawan 77*, Williamson 36*) beat Rajasthan Royals 125 for 9 (Samson 49, Kaul 2-17, Shakib 2-23) by nine wickets. The highest successful chase in Hyderabad over the last three seasons has been 147. Without David Warner, their highest run-getter in each of the previous three seasons, it was a brave call from new Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Kane Williamson to field first and his bowlers justified that call in style. Rajasthan Royals huffed and puffed to 125 for 9 and then saw Sunrisers canter home by nine wickets on the same Uppal surface where the ball appeared to be doing all sorts of tricks when they batted. Shikhar Dhawan slammed a half-century, Williamson warmed up with an attractive knock and the home fans returned home a happy lot.

In his first game for the new franchise who acquired him for a steal at INR 50 lakhs (US$ 78,000 approx), Australia fast bowler Billy Stanlake used his 6”7 height to generate zip and awkward bounce to bowl four impressive overs that also fetched him the big scalp of Ben Stokes for 5. Then spin twins Shakib Al Hasan and Rashid Khan applied the brakes in the middle overs, finishing with combined figures of 3 for 46 off eight overs to derail Royals. Barring Sanju Samson’s 42-ball 49, there was little of note from the top order. In reply, Sunrisers completely took the surface out of the equation as Dhawan and Williamson’s 121-run second-wicket stand snuffed out any inkling of hope Royals may have had of salvaging the match.

In pushing Rahul Tripathi, who enjoyed phenomenal success as an opener in 2017, to No. 5, they may have erred right at the outset. Tripathi’s attacking instincts and the ability to find boundaries at will in the Powerplay – reflected in his Smart Strike Rate of 201.82 – made him vital to Rising Pune Supergiant’s plans last season. When he walked in to bat on Monday night, Royals were struggling at 63 for 3 in the ninth over. D’Arcy Short, BBL 2017-18’s highest run-scorer, ran himself out in the first over. Samson walked in at No. 3 and began with two pleasing back-to-back boundaries off Bhuvneshwar Kumar – first a punch on the up through cover and then a wristy flick to bisect midwicket and mid-on – but couldn’t quite maintain the tempo after the Powerplay that fetched 48. This, even as Ajinkya Rahane struggled at the other end.

Where sides often decide to open with spin, Williamson held Rashid back for after the first six. His Smart Economy Rate of 4.89 between overs six and 15 was second-best to Sunrisers’ MVP of 2016, Mustafizur Rahman, whose economy rate was pegged at 4.66. Rashid made the ball talk immediately, beating Stokes twice and conceding just one off his first over. This pressure to hit out resulted in Stokes holing out to long-on in the next over. Shakib then did what he usually does – play the holding job to perfection by varying his lengths and pace cleverly. Since 2015, he averages 38 in the middle overs and rarely strikes in this period. On Tuesday, he picked up the wickets of Tripathi and Samson in the space of four deliveries in the 14th over to leave Royals tottering at 95 for 5.

This left Jos Buttler needing to repair some late damage to haul them close to 150. It proved to be a task too steep as Buttler would chop on to Rashid’s slider. That Royals eventually got to 125 was down to Shreyas Gopal’s run-a-ball 18 full of dinks and dabs. Their overseas bowling aside, Siddarth Kaul exhibited Sunrisers’ local fast-bowling depth. Preferred over his state team-mate Sandeep Sharma, Kaul impressed to pick 2 for 17 off his four overs to ensure they didn’t leak runs towards the death.

Dhawan doesn’t figure on top of the Smart Strike Rate list, he goes at 114.57, but he has still managed to remain effective for Sunrisers, because they have had the belligerence of Warner to bank on. On Monday, Wriddhiman Saha was sent up to open, but fell in an attempt to loft over the infield. Dhawan then took over and played Warner’s role to perfection in slamming a 33-ball half-century. This came with some luck, however, as he was put down at first slip on 0 in the very first over. Looking to flay a Dhawal Kulkarni lifter outside off, Dhawan found a thick edge that was put down by Rahane on the second attempt.

Dhawan’s first scoring shot five deliveries later also flew over slip. Edgy, he may have been initially but he soon found his rhythm by slamming Kulkarni for a four and an upper cut for six off his next over to set Sunrisers on track. This meant Williamson didn’t need to flex his muscles, and relied on pure timing and hand-eye coordination to pick runs. Their half-century stand was raised off just 27 balls. It really was all too easy from there.