The quality and depth of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s seam attack proved the decisive factor in a low-scoring scrap against Gujarat Lions on a two-paced pitch at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra and Mustafizur Rahman bowled with skill and nous to restrict Lions to 126, and though Sunrisers lost wickets regularly, the smallness of their target meant their batsmen never had to over-extend themselves.
Apart from having a set target to aim for, Sunrisers were helped by the conditions easing somewhat in the second innings, with a little less swing for the Lions new-ball bowlers. David Warner gave the chase early momentum, hitting two sixes off Pradeep Sangwan in the second over. On a slow pitch, Sangwan provided pace onto the bat, and also bowled the wrong lengths; when he came back in the 13th over, he began with a short ball outside off and a half-volley on the pads, and Dhawan put both away for four.
Lions’ bowlers did well to take the game as far as they did, but provided hittable balls just a little more frequently than their Sunrisers counterparts had done. With Sunrisers needing 40 from 31, Ravindra Jadeja bowled a quicker one wide of off stump with third man inside the circle, and Deepak Hooda dabbed it away to the fielder’s left. With 34 needed off 27, the otherwise excellent Dhawal Kulkarni – who had troubled Yuvraj Singh with the short ball on the way to a wicket maiden – gave Dhawan a wide long-hop. With 12 needed from 10 balls, Praveen Kumar bowled a half-volley, at his normal pace, that Naman Ojha lofted down the ground. Dhawan ended the match in that Praveen over, clipping and flat-batting him for successive fours.
It had rained in Hyderabad on the eve of the match, and it was still overcast, with swarms of insects flying around the players’ faces, when Bhuvneshwar ran in for the first ball. The conditions encouraged swing, and Dwayne Smith couldn’t put bat to the first four balls of the match. Three were outswingers that beat his outside edge, one an inswinger that struck him on the front pad. Smith connected off the next two balls, but hit both straight to backward point.
Nehra followed that maiden with another, puzzling Brendon McCullum with a mix of balls swinging into him and balls that went with the angle across him. Some of them held up on the pitch, adding to the batsman’s discomfort.
When 0 for 0 became 2 for 1 in the next over, Smith’s record against Bhuvneshwar in all T20s read: 52 balls faced, 38 runs scored, two dismissals.
Suresh Raina injected urgency into Lions’ innings when he slogged Nehra and Bhuvneshwar for sixes in successive overs, but he only lasted 10 balls, consumed by the tendency of the ball to stop on this pitch.
Mustafizur, coming on in the sixth over, nearly struck with his first ball, as McCullum skewed a wide-ish cutter high over point, but the backtracking Dhawan juggled and then dropped the ball. But another cutter three balls later opened up Dinesh Karthik, and Kane Williamson threw himself to his left to complete a low, one-handed stunner.
McCullum’s uncomfortable stay ended in the eighth over, as he toe-ended Moises Henriques to long-off. Henriques and Barinder Sran provided tight back-up to the three main seamers, taking the pace off the ball and bowling stump-to-stump.
Lions recovered somewhat as Dwayne Bravo and Aaron Finch put on 45 for the fifth wicket, but both of them had to scrounge for their runs. So did the rest of the batting. Mustafizur remained an unsolved puzzle, the right-handers finding it almost impossible to hit against his combination of angle and break off the pitch – they hit only two scoring shots off him through the leg side.
Warner dropped a sitter off Finch in the 16th over, when he was on 30, but the excellence of Mustafizur, Nehra and Bhuvneshwar meant it wasn’t a costly miss. Between them, they only conceded 35 off the last four overs. Given Lions’ slow start, that was never going to be enough of a finish to reach a competitive total.