In the battle of two Australian captains, it was a former Indian captain who stole the limelight. Saturday’s IPL encounter between Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) would be remembered for the heroics of the 2011 World Cup winning skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who slammed a whirlwind 34-ball 61 to give RPS a last-ball, six-wicket victory over SRH in a cliffhanger at the Maharashtra Cricket Stadium in Pune.
The game was full of twists and turns with both sides locked in a cat and mouse battle throughout the course of 40 overs. Even going into the last legal delivery of the match, all three results were possible. RPS needed two runs to sneak home, SRH required a dot ball or wicket and a single would have sent the match into a super over.
However, the day belonged to Dhoni, who was able to do what he has been doing for years – finish the game with his willow.
Dhawan, Warner tied down
RPS bowlers justified Smith’s decision to field first with some disciplined bowling in the Powerplay overs. Smith’s call to hand Washington Sunder his first IPL cap and then use his off spin as early as in the second over of the innings paid rich dividends as both the SRH openers struggled for timing.
With the first eight overs yielding only 55 runs, Dhawan decided to hit Imran Tahir’s first delivery out of the park only to hole out to Rahul Tripathi in the deep. His departure brought in-form Kane Williamson into the middle, who hit some lusty blows on his way to a 14-ball 21 before being trapped plumb in front of the wicket by pacer Dan Christian.
Warner broke the shackles after getting a reprieve from his Australian captain on the first ball of the 11th over. The SRH skipper’s switch-hit six off Shardul Thakur in the 15th over was one of the most glamorous shots of the match. However, he was dismissed while trying to repeat the same off Unadkat in the 16th over.
Henriques hammers fifty
SRH were able to reach 176/3 from their stipulated 20 overs despite scoring only 85 runs in their first 13, thanks to a late blitz from Moises Henriques. Henriques looked busy from the moment he walked out to bat as he ran with purpose and found the fence with his perfectly timed strokes.
He got ample support from Deepak Hooda, who biffed a 10-ball 19. Together, the pair added a quickfire 47 off 21 balls with Henriques finishing with a 28-ball 55 that was studded with six fours and two sixes. For SRH, Christian was the pick of the bowlers, claiming 1/20 from his quota of four overs.
Tripathi makes SRH pay for drop
RPS openers struggled in the first few overs of their run chase with Rahane falling cheaply to left arm spinner, Bipul Sharma, for 2. Sharma’s celebrations, though, were short-lived as he put down a simple chance offered by Rahul Tripathi off pacer Mohammed Siraj. Tripathi was on 17 off 15 and SRH’s score read 24 for 1 in 4.1 overs when he was given this life.
By the time Tripathi offered another chance, he had smashed 58 off 43 balls with the help of six fours and three sixes. In the process, he had also taken SRH from 24 for 1 in 4.1 overs to 98 for 2 in 13 overs.
Rashid turns the game around, nearly
Had Sunrisers won the game, Rashid Khan would have walked away with all the honours. With Tripathi and Steven Smith (27 off 21) going great guns and taking Supergiant to 83 for 1 at the end of 10 overs, SRH’s hopes were quickly dwindling.
It was here that Khan produced another magic ball; a googly that Smith failed to read and chopped onto his stumps. Even post Smith’s departure, Tripathi appeared the biggest thorn in the flesh of SRH and once again it was Rashid Khan who came up with a moment of brilliance, running the Pune opener out with a direct hit off his own bowling on the first ball of the 14th over. The Afghanistan tweaker finished with superb figures of 1/17 from four overs.
The Turning Point: Dhoni/Tiwari partnership
Despite his reputation as arguably the best ever finisher in the history of limited-overs cricket, Dhoni has struggled to close matches in recent times. Some past cricketers and critics even started writing him off, saying his best days were over. It was time to eat humble pie for all these critics on Saturday as a vintage MSD show converted a lost cause into an adrenaline-pumping win for Pune.
Dhoni pulled off this heist in the company of Manoj Tiwary, whose eight-ball 17 cameo was praiseworthy. The duo added 58 off the last 23 balls, which turned the game decisively in the favour of the Supergiant. In fact, it was Tiwari who started the slam-bang show after the required rate had gone well past 15.
With 46 required off 17, Tiwari flicked Siraj over the backward square leg fence for four before Dhoni launched his assault, smashing a six and a four off consecutive deliveries to keep RPS in the game.
The real challenge awaited the duo in the 19th over when they were up against the bowler of the season, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who killed a similar late order surge from Kings XI Punjab a week ago. Dhoni was, though, up for the task as he made great use of his bottom hand power to plunder Bhuvi for two fours and one six in the over. In total, 19 runs came off this penultimate over as the equation reduced to 11 off one over.
Kaul was brilliant in the last two matches and Warner entrusted him with the responsibility of bowling the last over again. Tiwary hoisted his first delivery to deep midwicket where Rashid Khan dropped a difficult catch and failed to stop the ball from going to the fence. Kaul kept it quite tight for the next four deliveries as Dhoni and Tiwari ran singles off three of them before squeezing a couple off the second last ball of the match.
With two needed off the last ball, Kaul went for a length ball, which Dhoni bludgeoned through extra cover to give RPS their third win in six matches. As Ravi Shastri would have said, the match went right down to the wire and it was Dhoni who finished it in style.