It was a game of two halves. While the first half of the match meandered along mundanely despite the presence of David Warner throughout, the second half was nothing short of extraordinary. The Sunrisers captain had to really dig deep and play an innings of sedateness and responsibility – traits not usually associated with the Australian.
This was only the second time in the IPL that he batted throughout the innings.
Warner works hard
After working himself into a corner, having scored only 6 runs off 16 deliveries in the powerplay overs, the left-handed opener worked through the slow start by picking up singles and twos, while also sending the loose ball off to the ropes. The dashing opener had a strike rate of 37 in the powerplay, but for the rest of the innings, he produced runs at 168.
That, along with a brisk cameo by Naman Ojha, allowed the hosts to scamper to a fighting total.
Defending 160 in the IPL is a tough ask under any circumstances. The pitch was a bit up and down, difficult to score off and the ball never came on to the bat easily. Warner batting through the innings and scoring only 70 proved this beyond doubt.
But the visitors came with a batting heavy lineup that was well suited for the job.
Manan Vohra and Hashim Amla had been getting the team off to good starts. With Glenn Maxwell, Eoin Morgan, David Miller and Wriddhiman Saha filling in the middle order spots, it seemed that if anyone could stand up to the SRH bowling, it had to be this team.
A cracker of a contest was on the cards – a strong batting lineup against one of the most consistent bowling sides in the IPL.
Bhuvi draws first blood
The home team did not disappoint. Purple cap holder Bhuvneshwar Kumar opened the bowling and sent back Hashim Amla on the very first ball. Maxwell walked in to bat for the second ball of the innings. By the third over, even the Punjab captain was walking back to the dressing room, courtesy Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Morgan and Manan then stitched together a 40 run partnership that restored parity after those early strikes. Morgan started slowly and a sixer off Mohammad Nabi’s first ball in the IPL was to be his only boundary.
Manan Vohra, meanwhile, kept piling on the runs and dragging his side along. After Nabi, Rashid Khan was brought on. The Punjab opener took a liking to the Afghan teen. For the first time, Rashid was found ineffective as the ball kept soaring over the heads of fielders.
Rashid receives a hiding
For once, the Afghan’s googlies came up a cropper. It was a masterful display of batting that had Rashid shaking his head in disappointment. Vohra kept picking his googlies, swatting them away over the midwicket region for fours and sixes.
When the leg break was pitched up to compensate for the short googlies, it was driven through the offside for another boundary. The welcome was a grand one – 19 runs were plundered off the bowler’s first over.
Some more stick at that point would have swung the game in favor of the visitors. Realizing this, Warner took off his Afghan spinners and brought in medium pace. Scoring slowed down.
After two overs, Nabi was brought back in and instantly picked up Morgan’s wicket. Miller walked in but looked unconvincing against spin. The home side’s skipper must have noticed that as he brought in Rashid for the next over.
At a make or break point, with his nemesis Manan Vohra on strike, the young legspinner came on to bowl. He induced some steep bounce to let the batsman take a single. Miller was on strike and the leg breaks began to rip.
Two dot balls and it became clear that the South African wasn’t picking the line or the length, let alone the turn. A slip was brought in. Pressure. And then the game turned.
Rashid strikes back
Rashid then pushed in a quick leg break that Miller tried to cut. It was a ridiculous choice of shot – he tried to go back for the cut but missed it completely as the ball crashed into leg stump. Red lights began to flash and the celebrations had begun. A dangerman had been dismissed.
Next up was Saha, who could have easily crafted an innings of grit and determination as he has done so often. That, along with Vohra’s swashbuckling strikes would have been the match for Punjab. All wasn’t lost yet for the visiting team.
The exuberance and fearlessness of youth hadn’t been accounted for. Despite having been smashed for 19 runs, once again the googly was brought out. This time, Saha couldn’t meet the ball with his bat and lost his off stump.
Within one over, the visiting side had slumped from 61/3 to 62/5, with the pith of their batting having been sent back to the pavilion. That Punjab yet managed to take the game into the final over from this point was astonishing. All thanks to an incredible innings from Manan Vohra.
It took another brilliant over, just like Rashid’s, to finally tilt the match decisively in the home team’s favour. Yet again, the executioner was Bhuvneshwar Kumar. With only 16 runs to get from 12 balls, and with the Punjab opener still at the crease on 95, the match wasn’t even in the balance.
It looked like the visiting team would pull off a stunning win. Within three balls, however, Bhuvi picked up two wickets and turned the match on its head.
It might have been a case of the classic knockout punch in the penultimate over. Despite that, the comeback over by Rashid Khan stood out as the crux moment in the innings. For an 18-year-old to show such character on such a big stage isn’t expected. It defies expectation.
When he got hit in his first over, he was immediately taken off. Yet, to come back and bowl up to some of the most destructive batsmen in the IPL required a truckload of guts and a young overseas player from an associate cricket nation proved tonight, that he had it.