“Maybe a batsman or two short,” one would have thought after looking at the Sunrisers Hyderabad roster after this year’s IPL auction.

They had the chance to rebuild a team, to make it more balanced. For, they have always been a team reliant on one or two for putting runs on the board. And, one of their key batsmen – their captain – David Warner, who they retained was out of the tournament due to disciplinary charges. So, they might have had gone overboard with the bowlers in the auction, one thought.

How wrong one could be!

The Sunrisers are on a five-match winning streak and look good to break the record for most points accumulated in the group stages of IPL. This they have managed after defending totals of 118, 132, 151, 146 against some of the batting behemoths of IPL. In all these games, the opposition was looking good to win at the Powerplay stage.

Teams while chasing against Sunrisers

Royal Challengers  147 55/1 141/6
Rajasthan Royals 152 43/1 140/6
Kings XI Punjab 133 44/0 119/10
Mumbai Indians 119 22/3 87/10
Kolkata Knight Riders* 48 48/3
*As per D/L method

It isn’t astonishing to see the Sunrisers do so well so far in the tournament. But this domination – losing just two out of 10 games – not many expected.

One of the unsurprised few about his team’s performance is coach Tom Moody. He and his support staff knew from the beginning what they were doing. Which is why the decision to bolster the bowling attack at the auction is paying dividends.

Ahead of Sunrisers’ second match against Rajasthan Royals, he said: “We’ve got excellent personnel who have experience in IPL cricket. We’ve got bowlers who have diverse level of skill. We were aware during the auction process that we wanted to make sure our depth in quality of Indian pace attack is a strong one. It’s not a great surprise to me that they have delivered but it’s great that when given a chance, they have stepped up and delivered.”

Moody knew he could count on his bowling unit even if his batting line-up (deprived of a T20 leviathan like Chris Gayle or AB de Villiers or Sunrisers’ own David Warner) came short. For his bowlers have not only won him matches, but an IPL: in 2016. That year Sunrisers won the tournament with the season’s worst middle order.

Their bowlers that year, led by the sagacious Bhuvneshwar Kumar, picked up the second-most wickets, were most economical and delivered the highest number of dot balls.

Sunrisers bowlers in 2016

Sunrisers Hyderabad 88 7.77 668
Delhi Daredevils  63 8.03 540
Gujarat Lions 75 8.43 620
Rising Pune Supergiant 70 8.26 539
Kings XI Punjab 63 8.57 509
Royal Challengers Bangalore 89 8.74 595
Kolkata Knight Riders 81 8.28 632
Mumbai Indians 62 8.20 533

Bhuvneshwar was the highest wicket-taker that season and Warner had counted on him for the early breakthroughs and stifling batsmen at the death. Ever since, Bhuvneshwar has become sharper in both areas, especially in the death overs while defending a target.

Which is why, the Sunrisers team management would’ve been pleased when the bowling unit more than made up for Bhuvneshwar’s absence (due to injury) in four games this year. Without him, they defended two sub-140 totals, including 118 against Mumbai Indians at their home ground. Five of their bowlers, who have bowled at least 15 overs, have an economy rate less than eight (the most for any team this season).

Sunrisers' economical bowlers

Sandeep Sharma 23 7 5.26
Siddarth Kaul 40 13 7.05
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 23 7 7.08
Rashid Khan 40 13 7.15
Shakib Al Hasan 36 10 7.55

Another reason for Sunrisers’ dominance this season is their death bowling. Backed by a cool-headed skipper in Kane Williamson, the bowlers have been clinical in the 16-20 overs this season. They have conceded just 361 runs and picked up 26 wickets during that stage so far this season. That’s just over 36 runs (on average) in the last five overs. While defending, they have conceded less than 30.

The idea of leaving it till the last mightn’t work against Sunrisers. But Williamson’s shrewd bowling changes in the middle have forced many teams to take the match to the end. For instance, Rashid Khan, who the best of batsmen (excepting Chris Gayle and Ambati Rayudu) haven’t been able to attack, bowls four of his overs in the middle overs, giving away very little and more often than not breaking a vital partnership.

SRH bowlers: Deadly at the death

Sunrisers Hyderabad 7.50
Mumbai Indians 9.47
Rajasthan Royals 9.72
Delhi Daredevils 9.83
Kings XI Punjab 10
Kolkata Knight Riders 11.05
Chennai Super Kings  11.19
Royal Challengers Bangalore 12.20
Courtesy: @deeputalks / Twitter.

Royal Challengers Bangalore, immediately after the auction, were called the most most dangerous outfit of this year’s IPL because of the battling line up they boasted. Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum, Quinton de Kock, Corey Anderson, Moeen Ali and a few more.

But the bowling of Sunrisers were equally threatening. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Rashid Khan, an improved Siddarth Kaul and Shakib Al Hasan. If one doesn’t get you, the other will. In 20 overs, there’s no space for a batsman to hide against this line-up that constantly stifles.

“Batsmen win you games, bowlers win you tournaments,” Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood had told ESPNCricinfo after winning the Champions Trophy.

RCB’s batting line-up of T20 legends failed to win enough games for their team, but SRH’s bowlers are looking good to win the tournament once again for theirs.

(All stats courtesy IPLt20.com as of May 10, 2018 before the Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Delhi Daredevils match)