Irrespective of your allegiance – whether you are one of those who didn’t mind singing ‘Go go go go go Orange Army’ or someone ready to board the Whistle Podu Express – you’d have expected, and even wanted, to watch a last-over thriller. Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowling and Mahendra Singh Dhoni on strike on the last ball. The two masters of death overs going at each other. The two teams – CSK, well-renowned for chases and SRH, recently titled ‘masters of defence’ – which are ranked first and second in points table, trying to outdo each other. It was a mouthwatering prospect.
Dhoni was on strike for the match’s last ball, Bhuvneshwar bowled it. But the match was as exciting as a gentle leg-side nudge with which Dhoni scored the winning run. Dhoni needn’t finish this off in style, he required just a single. His partner at the other end, Ambati Rayudu, had scored an unbeaten century and CSK’s other opener, Shane Watson, had conquered the best bowling attack of this season with remarkable ease.
By the time Watson (57 off 35) got out, Chennai needed just 46 from 39 with Dhoni still to come. So, after his dismissal, the prospect of Rayudu’s maiden hundred was more interesting than the fate of the match.
But the chase wasn’t expected to be one-sided after the first innings had ended.
The Kane and Shikhar show, episode 2
Once Williamson lost the toss and MS Dhoni decided to field first, there was perhaps an added pressure on the Sunrisers to put more runs on the board because CSK, in this IPL, have scored at a quicker rate during the Powerplay, middle overs and at the death. And, with a rejuvenated Dhoni batting better than he has ever batted in the IPL, SRH would’ve thought the defence was always going to be tough, even with the best bowling line-up of this IPL.
The onus was on Williamson and Shikhar Dhawan again to bat for long, considering the other batters in the team are struggling to find form. Alex Hales had departed after making a nine-ball two – a brief yet struggling stay in the middle. And, Deepak Chahar was getting the ball to move prodigiously off the pitch.
Sunrisers started slow. The 29/1 at the Powerplay stage is one of their all-time slowest starts.
But when in form, Williamson and Dhawan are as good as anyone in any format of the game. Form, Dhawan regained in the last match. Form is Williamson’s love, it rarely leaves him. So, the two got together to make swift, steady runs.
At the onset of the middle overs, the pitch seemed to have stopped aiding swing and Dhoni tried the spinners on. And, both Williamson and Dhawan targetted them and the medium pacers.
Over No. 10, bowled by Bravo: 10 runs.
Over No. 11, bowled by Jadeja: 13 runs.
Over No. 12, bowled by Watson: 14 runs.
Over No. 13, bowled by Jadeja: 11 runs.
Over No 14, bowled by Harbhajan: 14 runs.
Over No 15, bowled by Willey: 15 runs.
Over No 16, bowled by Bravo: 11 runs and dismissal of Dhawan.
Williamson was dismissed off the next ball and then the innings slowed down when, especially against one of the best chasing sides like the Super Kings, it should have quickened. Sunrisers scored at 9.4 runs during the death overs, which is more than their average death-overs scoring rate (8.4) this tournament, but way less than CSK’s death-overs scoring rate (12.24).
Walk in the park for Watto and Rayudu
As the first innings closed, there was heavy cloud cover and it threatened to rain in Pune. So, with the deadly swing bowling duo of Bhuvneshwar and Sandeep Sharma, Sunrisers might have expected a few quick wickets to put pressure on the Super Kings.
The third delivery of the second innings that was perhaps pitched wider than bowler Sandeep had intended and Watson carved it to the point boundary.
The next over, on the second ball bowled by Bhuvneshwar, Watson pulled a good length ball over the deep-midwicket ropes.
Two of the season’s best swing bowlers failed to beat the batsman even once in their first overs. The bounce didn’t vary as well. The pitch, it seemed, was better to bat in the second innings. Dhoni conceded this in his post-match interaction. “I thought the ball will swing more in the second half than what it did for us. The swing was not there, that was a surprise,” he said.
In the next over, Watson hit two more sixes off Sandeep. The opening duo, by now, was reassured that the bowlers wouldn’t get any assistance apart from bounce.
Siddarth Kaul tried bouncers and short-pitched deliveries. But Rayudu’s pull strokes were effective against this. In the seventh over, Rayudu smashed him for 17 runs – 10 coming off pull shots to the midwicket region.
With the run-making being facile against the medium pace trio – Bhuvneshwar, Sandeep and Siddarth – and Shakib Al Hasan, Watson and Rayudu could afford to play out Rashid Khan, who Williamson unleashes when the required run-rate is mounting. But, even Rashid couldn’t get the breakthrough that Sunrisers desperately needed.
It came, finally, in the 13th over, when Watson was run out, unable to finish a quick single. And, Sunrisers struck again in four balls, dismissing Suresh Raina, when he went for a big stroke.
But with just 43 runs required, with 35 balls and eight batters left (including The Mahendra Singh Dhoni) and Rayudu looking in great nick in the middle, the hopes of a Sunrisers revival were just an illusion.