DC and SRH lined up for the penultimate clash of the season in Abu Dhabi. DC were coming off MI and they looked the underdogs going into an elimination clash. Shreyas Iyer’s men have lost 5 of their last 6 matches while SRH have won 4 of their last 4 matches at a high level. To add to that, the DC batting has misfired in several matches and their batting form has hit a new low as they went down 0-3 in a 200 plus chase against MI in Qualifier 1. Conversely, both Warner and Williamson. they have been in purple throughout the tournament and Holder’s addition to the Orange army has provided the right balance in recent times. In short, things are going right for SRH, while it’s been a slump for DC after a brilliant start to the tournament.
It’s strange how one tactical change can completely turn the tide in your favor. Ricky Ponting has seen Marcus Stoinis open in the BBL and achieved reasonable success for the Melbourne Renegades. In such a cracking game, the DC team management decided to field Stoinis. These kinds of strategic changes in big matches can be masterstrokes like we saw today or they can be detrimental like we saw for RCb last night. Fortunately for Iyer’s men, the move to promote Stoinis to the top of the order proved fruitful.
Stoinis provided the initial momentum to DC’s innings in the Powerplay, something they have sorely lacked in the last few matches. The sturdy Australian bowled Sandeep Sharma and Jason Holder in the Powerplay overs, forcing Warner to turn to the spin of Shahbaz Nadeem in the 6th over.th completed. A belligerent attack from one end gave Dhawan a few balls to settle into the crease, allowing him to stand for long.
The SRH bowlers were caught napping in Stoinis’ onslaught as DC raced to 65 from the Powerplay. Rashid Khan was to be attacked as early as the 7thth over, and although he suffered a nice leg break in his second over, Stoinis had done his job by then. Shikhar Dhawan, who had started to find the middle of the bat by then, took matters into his own hands and ensured that DC did not fall into a lull in the interim.
Dhawan showed maturity as he played Rashid and plucked Nadeem at the other end. The absence of 5th The bowlers did a lot of damage for SRH as the pair of Dhawan and Hetmyer targeted Nadeem and Holder to take 99 from their 8 overs. Shikhar Dhawan once again played a smooth innings of 78 to anchor the DC innings at one end. The fact that Dhawan scored 603 runs in the season despite 3 ducks speaks volumes about how Shikhar has been the backbone of Delhi’s batting this season.
Hetmyer’s late pyrotechnics threatened to push DC past 200, but some excellent bowling from Natarajan ensured SRH were restricted to 189-3. Among the massacres of Dhawan and Hetmeyer, 2 bowlers stood out for SRH. One was the very popular Rashid Khan, who is so respected by the opposition that they decide to play him. And the other was the very impressive York-king Natarajan. To concede just 32 from his 4 overs despite bowling the toughest over is surprising, especially when the opposition scored at 9.5 per over.
SRH started on a somber note. Rabada dismissed Warner with a yorker so identical to the one from Bumrah that dismissed Dhawan last night. Rabada & Bumrah- 2 bowlers who achieved legendary status at such a young age, taking turns ignoring opposition bowlers hitting inch perfect sevens on alternate nights. This is why IPL is the best T20 league in the world.
Priyam Garg failed to cash in on the opening opportunity as he fell to the cross-striper of Stoinis, who had a dream night with the ball and bat after his quick innings. Stoinis hurt SRH further by dismissing Manish Pandey in the same manner. Pandey attempted another cross-seamer across the pitch and was out at mid-off.
Down by 3 wickets in the Powerplay, SRH again looked to their banker Williamson to bail them out. Williamson, supported by Holder and Samad at the other end, began to do what he does best, milking singles and doubles, piercing the gaps. Williamson was particularly brutal against Ashwin and Axar as he used his quick feet to good effect, hitting 1-2 boundaries each against the spinners. In fact, Williamson’s onslaught meant the DC spinners conceded 66 from 7 overs.
Abdul Samad is another bright spot in the SRH line-up. He is someone who hits the ball cleanly and I hope we see a lot more of him at the top of the order. He outplayed Nortje’s serious pace on the boundary and he shone almost as brightly as Williamson tonight. Just when Williamson was threatening to take the game away from DC as they needed just 30 from 2 overs when Superman Stoinis struck again.
It’s fair to say that Stoinis’ smart bowling took DC into the final as, with Williamson at the crease, SRH looked set to chase it down. Cut for a boundary earlier in the over, Stoinis slowed it down and tossed it wider against Williamson, who misdirected it straight to Rabada and covers. The match ended then and Rabada’s hat-trick in the penultimate over put the official mark on the same.
Will Stoinis’ brilliance win over Mumbai Indians? Or will it be a 5th title for the men in blue? We’ll wait to find out.