Sunrisers pick Alex Hales and bat; Ish Sodhi debuts for Royals
Toss Sunrisers Hyderabad chose to bat v Rajasthan Royals. Sunrisers Hyderabad handed an IPL debut to England opener Alex Hales and opted to bat against Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur. Afghanistan allrounder Mohammad Nabi was left out while Bhuvneshwar Kumar had still not recovered from the injury that kept him out of the last two matches. Royals captain Ajinkya Rahane said he would have preferred to bat first as well. Royals gave debuts to New Zealand legspinner Ish Sodhi and left-arm spin allrounder Mahipal Lomror, who plays domestic cricket for Rajasthan. Royals were handed a nine-wicket thrashing when the sides last met in Hyderabad.
Sunrisers Hyderabad 151 for 7 (Williamson 63, Hales 45, Archer 3-26) beat Rajasthan Royals 140 for 6 (Rahane 65*, Samson 40, Kaul 2-23) by 11 runs. After Rajasthan Royals limited Sunrisers Hyderabad to 151 for 7 on a two-paced pitch in Jaipur, their debutant legspinner Ish Sodhi said the total was “a little under par”. Having successfully defended 118 and 132 in their previous two matches, however, Sunrisers had plenty to play with and strangled another chase after Royals had made a sound start. Their sixth win in eight games took Sunrisers to the top of thepoints table.
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 2 Rahul Tripathi, 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Jos Buttler(wk), 6 Mahipal Lomror, 7 Jofra Archer , 8 K Gowtham, 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni.
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 Basil Thampi, 10 Siddarth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma.
The Sunrisers batsmen could have made their bowlers’ task a lot easier had they not collapsed after Kane Williamson’s masterful 63 off 43 balls, on a pitch where every other batsman struggled. Williamson had a control % of 100 against every Royals bowler except K Gowtham and Jofra Archer, who had combined figures of 8-0-44-5. Sunrisers lost 5 for 44 in the last seven overs of their innings. The Royals captain Ajinkya Rahane batted through the chase, but he never looked comfortable during his half-century. Royals needed 80 runs off 60 balls, and 50 from 30, but the acceleration never came. Basil Thampi recovered from an expensive first over to successfully defend 20 in the 20th.
With their attack performing so impressively, Sunrisers decided to forego a sixth regular bowling option – Mohammed Nabi – and bring in firepower at the top of the batting order: Alex Hales. But with the ball not coming on to the bat and Gowtham finding slow turn, Hales chose to bide his time. Dhawan looked to force the pace, though, and played-on to a non-turning ball from Gowtham for his third successive sub-15 score since returning from an elbow injury. Enter Williamson: the bad-pitch batsman. Some balls bounced chest high while others fizzed through around the knees. Williamson was reprieved on 11, when Archer found extra bounce and the outside edge, but Rahul Tripathi dropped another straightforward catch at slip. Williamson was ultimately dismissed on 63 by a shooter from Sodhi.
In between, Williamson sussed out the conditions expertly. He swatted Sodhi’s googly to the midwicket boundary and then dismantled Jaydev Unadkat in the 12th over. Anticipating slower cutters from Unadkat, Williamson bent his back knee and laced a brace of boundaries over extra cover. The 21-run over also contained a dinky paddle and a streaky outside edge. The last ball – nurdled through midwicket – brought up a 32-ball fifty.
Hales’ dismissal, however, sparked a collapse. Gowtham had Hales holing out to backward point for 45 off 39 balls, and in the next over, Sodhi had his New Zealand captain caught behind with a googly that kept low outside off. Archer then took care of the lower-middle order to dash Sunrisers’ hope of a recovery. He bowled Shakib Al Hasan with a pinpoint yorker before removing Yusuf Pathan and Rashid Khan with short balls. Sunrisers had looked good to push towards 180 at one stage, but fell well short.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar not available? No problem. Sandeep Sharma found swing with the new ball to pin down the Royals openers Rahane and Rahul Tripathi, who was bowled for 4 by a skiddy delivery. The in-form Sanju Samson, however, lined up his Kerala team-mate Thampi and took 17 runs off the fourth over. Just when it looked like Samson could turn tables on the Sunrisers attack, Siddarth Kaul bowled a knuckle ball to have the batsman splicing a catch to short midwicket for 40 off 30 balls.
With Thampi proving expensive, and with no Nabi or Deepak Hooda to go to, Williamson needed to find a couple of overs from somewhere, and so he gave Yusuf Pathan his first over of the season. With his second ball, Yusuf bowled Ben Stokes, and then Rashid Khan dismissed Jos Buttler for the third time in three T20s to leave Royals needing 56 off 36 balls with six wickets in hand. Sandeep, Rashid, and Kaul did not concede a boundary in the next three overs and the asking rate rose to 12. Rahane slog swept Rashid for a massive six over square leg, but that was the extent of acceleration from the Royals captain.
The equation came down to 27 off 12 balls, and Kaul conceded only six in the 19th over because of some incredible catching and fielding. Manish Pandey leapt on the edge of the long-off boundary to catch the ball and drop it back into play before going over the rope, saving four runs. Then Wriddhiman Saha leapt high and to his left to catch an edge from Mahipal Lomror that otherwise might have gone for four. And then Shakib saved two runs on the sweeper boundary with some nifty footwork. With 20 to defend in the last over, Thampi conceded only nine, and while Rahane could not be dismissed he did not find a gear high enough to hurt Sunrisers.