Qualifier 2, Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Delhi Capitals, Abu Dhabi, 8th Nov 2020
Brief scores: DC 189/3, Shikhar Dhawan 78, Rashid Khan 1/26 beat SRH 172/8, Kane Williamson 67, Kagiso Rabada 4/29 by 17 runs
Every IPL game has a lot of mini-battles between players and this game too had one such match-up, albeit indirectly. One of the most successful captains for Australia (Ricky Ponting) coaching his team in its quest for its first IPL final pitted against one of Australia’s best openers (David Warner) in recent times. While DC had a roller coaster season before they managed to secure a spot in the play-offs, SRH fought their way up from a mid-season trough, fending off challenges for the last spot in the play-offs and beating RCB in the Eliminator. In the end it was DC who held their nerve to reach their maiden IPL final.
A gamble called Marcus Stoinis
In a must-win game, DC made a couple of bold calls that few teams might have taken at this stage of the tournament. Shreyas Iyer won the toss and opted to bat first, bucking the trend of captains winning the toss and opting to chase. The dew playing hide and seek in the last couple of games might have been a factor in that decision.
The other gamble was pairing Stoinis with Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order. Opening for Melbourne Stars in the BBL last year, Stoinis made 612 runs in 15 games, that included one century and five half-centuries, at an average of 55.63 and was in no mood to let go of this opportunity. His cautious watch lasted seven deliveries before he went after the bowling. Stoinis’ promotion meant Dhawan could take his time to settle in. There was no looking back for DC from thereon in and their partnership set the tone for the match. To the credit of the SRH bowlers, DC were restricted to 189 when they were projected to end up with a 200-plus score. With a bowling attack comprising of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Ravi Ashwin and Axar Patel, DC seemed to have just done enough to ensure their victory.
SRH’s season of grit and will
SRH’s campaign in this year’s IPL was plagued with injuries. Mitchell Marsh was ruled out before the season started and Bhuvneshwar Kumar pulled out with a hip injury. With their plans thrown into disarray, SRH were left stranded in the bottom half of the points table. With their play-off spot at stake, SRH made a couple of wise decisions one of them being the recruitment of Jason Holder as an injury replacement. Holder went unsold in the auctions for many teams might have felt his test match bowling wouldn’t fit the needs of the IPL. But as the season unfolded and the pitches slowed down, Holder was the boost SRH required to arrest their slide.
With the middle order reinforced by the addition of Kane Williamson, SRH suddenly looked a different side. Their Indian recruits exceeded expectations. Priyam Garg and Abdul Samad were brilliant in the limited opportunities they got. SRH gave T Natarajan a long run and he repaid their faith with wickets – including the big ones of MS Dhoni and AB de Villiers and has already the fans talking about a Jasprit Bumrah-Natarajan combo bowling overs 17 -20 for Team India in T20 internationals.
When it came to the business end of the tournament, SRH pulled out an ace called Wriddhiman Saha. While another team in their place would have hesitated to drop a batsman like Jonny Bairstow, SRH sent in Saha to open the batting with Warner. The results were there for everyone to see. What followed was a clinical execution of their plans – taking one game at a time and closing it out as they marched to a top-four finish.
The sum of errors greater than the sum of positives
Looking back at this game, SRH would rue a number of missed chances. Warner had positioned Holder at silly mid-on against a circumspect Stoinis, when he dropped a tough chance. Had that catch been taken, SRH could have broken into DC’s middle order sooner. A needless overthrow from Rashid Khan and a misfield from Natarajan cost SRH two boundaries. But more than the runs they gave away, the mistakes would have gotten into their heads, on a loop – obfuscating their bowling plans.
To chase the total down, one of their top order batsmen had to play long and play big. However, everything Stoinis touched turned to gold and he denied SRH the boost they required to go for the target. Williamson put up a fight, fanning the fading embers of hope among the SRH fans but he couldn’t get past Stoinis, whose evening just kept getting better and better.
As for the Delhi Capitals, they would like to believe their maiden appearance in the IPL final wasn’t luck, but the culmination of hard work and planning that has gone into shaping this team over the last few years. With a young and hungry Iyer at the helm and a mentor in Ponting, the fans will hope to see them dominating the IPL in the years to come.