Conventional wisdom said dew in the second half of matches should make chasing the preferred option. Every captain in the first week went by that logic, but six straight matches had gone in favour of the team batting first, going into Saturday’s game. One wondered when a captain will make a different decision at the toss.
Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper David Warner did so against Kolkata Knight Riders, a move also prompted by the desire to not put his lightweight and inexperienced middle-order under the pressure of a tight chase. Warner and his opening partner Jonny Bairstow are the soul of the line-up and were expected to do the bulk of the scoring. It didn’t work for them as their total of 142 was easily overhauled with two overs to spare, at the cost of three wickets.
Warner’s compatriot Pat Cummins has the ability to put the best-laid plans to waste. The pacer had just come out of quarantine in time for KKR’s first match against Mumbai Indians, as he was carted all around the park. Both SRH openers were all at sea as Cummins refused to give them any room, attacking the opposition captain from around the stumps. Bairstow struggled even more as the ball repeatedly snaked into him from outside the off-stump. All the Englishman’s efforts to get Cummins away failed and his dismissal wouldn’t have been out of place in a longer-format game.
KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik used three of Cummins’ overs inside the Powerplay and the speedster conceded only 11 runs in them. It prevented Sunrisers from getting a brisk start and even though Manish Pandey scored 51 off 38 balls, Wriddhiman Saha (30 off 31) struggled at No. 4. It meant that despite the potent bowling at their disposal, SRH’s score was woefully inadequate.
Not chasing a big total played right into the hands of KKR opener Shubman Gill. The youngster looked fidgety in the first game, as the team was chasing a tall score. But his unbeaten 70 off 62 balls on Saturday showed how he has developed his game in recent times, and also become a more mature player.
He played textbook shots easy on the eye, but also knew when to manufacture something unexpected. Very early in the chase, after KKR had lost pinch-hitter Sunil Narine, Gill jumped out to left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahemed and deposited him over long-on.
Nitish Rana, coming in at No. 3, took the pressure off Gill with a flurry of boundaries and even though KKR lost two quick wickets to find themselves 53/3 in the seventh over, the asking rate was never too much of a concern. What made Gill’s innings even more impressive was the manner in which he handled Rashid Khan, who has bamboozled some of the best batsmen in the world. Eoin Morgan (42 not out off 29 balls) ensured the result was never in doubt. The time both of them spent together in the middle will be to KKR’s advantage as the tournament goes along.