Playing four spinners at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Stadium in Raipur, which is one of the bigger grounds in the country, shed light on Delhi Daredevils’ strategy of making it hard for batsmen to scale boundaries by taking the pace off the ball. One of the changes that worked wonders for them, however, was the inclusion of Carlos Brathwaite, along with the brilliance of Karun Nair, that kept the Daredevils in the hunt for a playoff spot, while ruining Sunrisers Hyderabad’s chances of a top finish.
For a venue hosting its first of two Indian Premier League matches in the ninth edition on Friday (May 20), there were quite a few empty seats, contrary to the popular expectations amongst the locals of a full house. Pravin Amre, Daredevils’ assistant coach, had said home support was vital for them, but the lack of it didn’t stop the hosts from pipping Sunrisers by six wickets as they chased down 159 in the final over.
Sunrisers were without their captain David Warner for the first nine overs of the innings for reasons unclear while Eoin Morgan called the shots. Nair and Rishabh Pant steadied the Daredevils’ ship after the early wicket of Quinton de Kock. The pair, slowly but steadily, kept the scoreboard ticking without extravagant indulgence. Daredevils had the same number of runs as did the Sunrisers at the halfway stage, but it was the two additional wickets that they had that had them as favourites in the chase.
If Ashish Nehra’s loss wasn’t enough for the Sunrisers to rue, slip ups in the field and as many as 12 extras cost them pretty. Sure, Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s accurate throw from the mid-wicket region saw the end of Pant for a 26-ball 32, but Warner’s drop of Nair in the 15th over, with the batsman on 51, could’ve changed the end result for Sunrisers. That blunder was followed by JP Duminy’s spill by Bhuvneshwar at deep cover, but the batsman departed the next ball as Warner hung on to a skier.
Luck favoured Nair from the onset as a bottom edge to the wicketkeeper off Moises Henriques was adjudged not out in the ninth over. But that can’t discount the intellect with which he approached his innings. Cautious against the spinners, who did well to keep him quiet, he cashed in against pace. After reaching his fifty off 42 balls, he struck two mighty blows off Sran in the 17th over to take Daredevils closer to the target. Brathwaite was sent back as Sran took a blinder at short third man in the penultimate over, but Nair steered Daredevils to an eventual win, remaining unbeaten on 83 off 59 with eight fours and three sixes.
Brathwaite, who returned figures of 2 for 27, started the night with a brilliant run out of Shikhar Dhawan in his first over after Hyderabad’s openers had given their team a solid start. Dhawan hit one straight back to Brathwaite, who dived in his follow-through to get to the ball on time. The southpaw, who was halfway down the track by then, was caught well-short of the crease as Brathwaite aimed and hit the stumps. Sunrisers ended the powerplay on 46 for 1.
Warner and Dhawan were tied down by Zaheer Khan up front, with tight lines and imaginative fields. With a first and third slip for Warner, a short fine leg and a short cover for Dhawan, Zaheer’s swing and line had the openers watchful. Nathan Coulter-Nile’s opening over in the fourth yielded 15 runs for Sunrisers, injecting much-needed momentum to the innings before they were done in by Delhi’s vigilance.
Deepak Hooda, once again promoted to one drop, was halfway down the track when a shot from Warner ricocheted off Amit Mishra’s hand. With one stump to aim at, Mishra chased down the ball and hit, shifting the momentum in Delhi’s favour, who with that wicket, had effected the most number of run-outs 13 this season.
Warner, recognising the need for solidity, played out the good balls and rotated the strike well with Yuvraj Singh. Brathwaite then returned and had Yuvraj play on to one that was angling away, reducing Sunrisers to 68 for 3 at the halfway stage. .
Warner, who was 36 off 28 after the sixth over, reached his fifty only in the 12th over, off 40 balls. That was the Australian’s seventh fifty-plus score this season, the third-highest in the history of the IPL, with only Virat Kohli (9, this season) and Chris Gayle (8 in 2012) being ahead.
Delhi read the pitch right, but the spinners didn’t capitalise on keeping the Sunrisers batsmen tied down. Warner hit the first six of the match in the 12th over off Brathwaite. With the boundaries being as large as they were, only three sixes were hit in the entire innings, while 15 twos were run.
Moises Henriques and Warner stitched a useful 24-ball 39-run stand for the fourth wicket, but the pair was dismissed in alternate overs. Henriques holed out to Duminy while Brathwaite picked up his second wicket for the night as Warner skewed one to third man for 73 off 53, on 117 for 5 with three to play.
A couple of lusty blows from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Naman Ojha, in an unbeaten 26-run stand helped Sunrisers reach 158 for 7, a total they just about managed to overhaul thanks to Nair’s calculated innings.