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Rashid stars as SRH prove master defenders again

Rashid Khan picked up three wickets as SRH defended another lowly score with success

If 118 against Mumbai Indians was enough to defend, 132 should be a cushion. It certainly was as Sunrisers Hyderabad yet again rode on their bowling attack to surprise Kings XI Punjab. Despite a half-century opening stand between KL Rahul and Chris Gayle, a vibrant bowling performance, led by Rashid Khan‘s three-wicket haul, helped SRH win by 13 runs. In doing so, they snapped KXIP’s four-match winning streak and swapped places with them on the points table, moving up to second place.

By mixing caution with aggression. Both Chris Gayle and KL Rahul had enough respect for Sandeep Sharma’s bowling, whose three overs in the powerplay yielded only 11 runs. But they made sure those economical overs didn’t affect the scoring rate as Mohammad Nabi got some stick. In contrast to SRH’s approach at the start of their innings, when they tried to go after the bowling without factoring in the conditions, Rahul and Gayle displayed better application, rotating the strike and cashing in when they had the chance to do so. In a 55-run opening stand, Rahul played the role of the aggressor without attempting anything fancy while Gayle’s presence and his occasional teeing off were ominous signs for SRH.

Through Rashid Khan’s brilliance and playing the game of patience better. Rashid might have run out of answers against the marauding blade of Gayle a week back. But a lot can change in that time, as KXIP found out on Thursday (April 26). Rahul went forward to the legspinner and expected a googly but the ball went straight on and defeated his defence. Gayle followed soon after as Basil Thampi’s persistence with back-of-length deliveries against the left-hander paid off. Wickets invariably led to quiet overs and in a bid to do something different, Mayank Agarwal tried to take on Shakib Al Hasan and paid for it by holing out in the deep. Rashid then foxed Karun Nair with a wrong ‘un and Aaron Finch failed in his attempt to take on Shakib, turning the tide completely in favour of SRH. KXIP, going strong at 55 for 0, lost five wickets for 33 runs in 39 balls.

Although it did look marginal in the end, SRH were always in control with the top order dismantled. It was too much to ask of the lower order and with KXIP reduced to 101 for 9, the only question was when. The last wicket pair put on a 18-run stand and took the game into the final over but SRH ensured there weren’t any late surprises.

Unlike R Ashwin’s decision to “see them chase down a score” the last time these two sides faced, the KXIP captain decided to bowl first in this game, probably considering the dew factor that had the groundsmen busy. With plenty of bounce on offer for the new ball, Ankit Rajpoot capitalised as he accounted for both Kane Williamson and Shikhar Dhawan early in the innings. With Wriddhiman Saha’s slog proving counter-productive against Rajpoot’s change of pace, Sunrisers slipped to 27 for 3 in the fifth over.

Their bowling was top notch, be it the pacers or the spinners. They cut out the boundary options and applied a chokehold on the SRH batsmen which meant that the hosts could only manage 57 in the first 10 overs. Only six boundaries came in that period, and all of those in the first six overs. In the eight overs following the powerplay, KXIP’s bowlers conceded only one four and applied pressure on the batsmen, taking a leaf out of SRH’s book on how to disintegrate an opposition. While those efforts certainly helped them keep the batsmen in check, what didn’t was their indiscipline on the field. There were as many as four dropped catches – Manish Pandey being the recipient of three of those lucky breaks – a missed run-out chance, and a no-ball reprieve (for Shakib Hasan off Barinder Sran), which allowed SRH the chance to rebuild their innings.

Rajpoot played the lead role, finishing with his maiden five-wicket haul – including two in the last over of the innings. His four overs only cost 14 runs and glittered with wickets in both the powerplay and the death, speaking volumes of his ability in the pressure overs. For SRH, Pandey scored his second fifty of this IPL – both coming against KXIP – as he rode his luck and stabilised the innings to an extent. Yusuf Pathan’s 19-ball 21 also came in handy, although the damage done by Rajpoot early ensured SRH were denied a flourishing finish.

On two fronts. First with their fielding – with poor catching allowing SRH to add extra runs. The start provided by the KXIP openers should have put the team in a cruise mode. But once they departed, KXIP hit the panic button which caused an implosion. The shot selection, especially by Agarwal and Finch – when they could have instead provided some direction to the chase with sensible batting on a trying wicket – would be a cause for worry in the KXIP camp.

Ideally, it shouldn’t. While the bowlers have been splendid in the last two games, the batsmen need to pull their socks up. They cannot always put up 140 or less and ask their bowlers to defend. In the two losses that they suffered earlier – against KXIP and CSK – the bowlers had expensive outings while bowling first and the batsmen weren’t up to the task. Bowling has always been SRH’s strength but it’ll serve them well to address the issues at the opposite end. “We need more runs from the batsmen. The wickets in the last two games weren’t easy. In the next few games, I think they will get more runs,” said Rashid, confident that the batsmen can do well in the upcoming games. Can Williamson, Dhawan and Co. reciprocate?

Jaipur is the next stop for Sunrisers, who’ll take on Rajasthan Royalson Sunday. Kings XI, meanwhile, have a week’s break before they face off against Mumbai Indians in their first home game in Indore on May 4.

Brief scores: Sunrisers Hyderabad 132/6 in 20 overs (Manish Pandey 54, Shakib Al Hasan 28; Ankit Rajpoot 5-14) beat Kings XI Punjab 119 in 19.2 overs (KL Rahul 32, Chris Gayle 23; Rashid Khan 3-19, Sandeep Sharma 2-17) by 13 runs.

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