SRH and RCB faced off for the first over of the season. It has been diametrically opposed for these 2 sides in the league stages. RCB started well and peaked when they destroyed KKR for a paltry 84 runs in their 10 overs.th league game. But from there, it was downhill for Kohli’s men. They have lost their last 4 league matches just making it to the playoffs by beating KKR in NRR. The momentum wasn’t with them and it showed in the 4 random team changes they made in the eminator. It was remarkable that they were looking for the right combination that would produce an eminator.
On the other hand, SRH blew hot and cold throughout the season. Their lowest score of the season came in the 11th league match where KXIP successfully defended 126 against them. From then on, there was a sudden turnaround as they defeated DC, RCB and MI in 3 consecutive matches to make it to the playoffs. The introduction of Saha in place of Bairstow had given SRH the freedom to play with the vastly underrated Jason Holder, and the West Indian had single-handedly turned the match around. Saha’s flamboyance at the top of the order also gave Warner the freedom to attack in the powerplay. In short, all of their pieces in the jigsaw seem to have fallen into place ahead of the playoffs.
SRH won the toss and elected to field. However, they suffered a major blow even before the game as the in-form Saha had to be ruled out due to injury. SRH had such a replacement in Goswami and he was included in the playing XI. The pitch appeared to be dry and it was the right move from the start.
Virat opened the batting with Paddikal. a move that clearly indicated that RCB were looking to turn things around for a change in fortunes. Virat looked cautious as he stayed short on the crease before Jason Holder’s length ball smothered him on the leg side. The underrated West Indian all-rounder continued to make inroads into the RCB batting line-up as he dismissed Paddikal caught at square leg in the very next over to give RCB a comeback in the Powerplay.
Finch and ABD have been left to do the rebuilding job and to be honest, it is extremely difficult to recreate Rashid Khan’s brilliant innings. A continuous barrage of googlies from Rashid ensured that neither Finch nor ABD found space outside the off-stump to exploit the short boundary outside off. Rashid and Nadeem played in tandem and made the most of the slowness of the wicket as pressure from the dotballs forced Finch and Moeen to play foolish shots and lose their wickets.
ABD was once again RCB’s lone warrior as he combined with the likes of Shivam Dube and Washington Sundar to power RCB to a competitive result. Although the brilliant South African managed to score a half-century, the pace of the innings was much slower than he would have liked and it denied his team any momentum.
Zaheer Khan’s yorker in the ICC Champions Trophy 2000 by Steve Waugh is talked about for the next 2 decades. It officially marked the start of Zaheer’s career in international cricket and the same can be said for Natharjan’s yorker ABD tonight. Natarajan has specialized as a death bowler this season and has come up time and again for SRH. However, his match with ABD at Castle this match was one for the ages and will be one of the highlights of this year’s IPL. After AB’s dismissal, RCB scored 131, which even on a sloppy surface looked low.\
SRH came out with a positive batting trend but missed Saha terribly at the top. Srivats Goswami was dismissed early by Siraj’s bumper and Warner had to revert to his isolated mode of batting. However, with a required run rate of just 6.5, Warner’s restrained batting did not make much of an impact on the required scores. Just when it looked like SRH were going to curl up to 42-45 with the loss of just 1 wicket in their powerplay, Siraj dismissed Warner.
To be honest, I felt the third umpire’s decision to send Warner off was really brave. There was insufficient evidence to definitively overturn the decision, and there was sufficient doubt whether the ball struck the pad or the gloves at the point of impact. It was one of those decisions that could have created a lot of controversy had SRHR lost the match.
The real game changer for RCB was their spin twins Chahal and Zampa. Zampa has improved quite a bit in line and length accuracy. Conceding just 4 runs from his first 2 overs against decent spinners like Manish and Williamson was really commendable. In fact, the spin stranglehold by Chahal and Zampa resulted in 2 valuable wickets for RCB in the middle overs in the form of Pandey and Garg.
The asking rate was threatening to cross 8 when the man of the hour came to the fore. Williamson is one of those players who is loved by the whole world. Even if he is in your opposition, you feel happy when he scores goals. Tonight he showed the value he brings to the table and why SRH preferred him in the 11 over Jonny Bairstow.
Just when Chahal and Zampa were spinning their webs around SRH, Williamson decided to take over. He made sure his point ball percentage went down as he successfully implemented the drop and run technique. Hitting singles and doubles off every ball, Virat drove deep square leg and midwicket into the circle. Williamson sensed the opportunity and played 2 risk-free sweeps against 2 googlies from Chahal and Zampa to reduce the score.
Jason Holder is an underrated player and his exploits in red ball cricket with the bat is something that deserves more attention. In fact, a year ago Holder himself appeared in the press saying that he was perfectly capable of batting in the top five, but that his bowling workload prevented him from doing so. Tonight he played with a level head and delivered the strike to Williamson to ensure RCB didn’t pull off a miracle.
Williamson, on the other hand, played book cricket shots to take his team home to an unbeaten half-century. Holder’s wickets in the final over ensured that Kane’s innings was not in vain as SRH cruised past RCB into their second qualifier of the season. With the momentum in their favour, SRH could be the favorites going into the clash against DC in a few days time.