Varun Shetty in Hyderabad (April 18, 2019)


Sunrisers Hyderabad were felled humiliatingly by Delhi Capitals in their last game, losing 8 for 15 after being ahead in a chase of 156. Not only was it a dramatic collapse, but it also marked their third loss in a row at a crucial point in their calendar – ahead of a game against Chennai Super Kings.

On Wednesday, they not only turned it around emphatically, they did it in vintage Sunrisers style. Sixteen out of their 26 successful chases have come in chases of 150 or under, which is just over 61% of the time. For a few years now, they’ve built success on a quality bowling line-up, and the win at home was a case of vintage Sunrisers bowling.

The wonders of bowling depth

It’s remarkable that Sunrisers can look into their bowling roster, particularly their seamers, and pull out a bowler with different strengths every time. Khaleel Ahmed, playing only his second game of the season, was effective straightaway on a dry pitch. Super Kings have had serious trouble starting their innings this season, coming into this game with a Powerplay run rate of 6.22 and losing 16 wickets, more than any other team this year. Those stats are made direr by the surfaces they got at home, but the strip where David Warner would later blaze away, the struggle was evident when watching Super Kings’ openers.

Khaleel’s offcutters had combined with Bhuvneshwar Kumar‘s accuracy to keep them to 15 in the first four overs. The acceleration came eventually but those overs of figuring out the bowling at the start had a big effect on the final score.

“We can’t say [we’re the] best bowling [attack] because it’s a T20,” Rashid Khan said after the match. “Anyone is the best, who does well on the day. But from outside it looks like we have the best bowling unit. We have good spinners. Fast bowling we have the kind of bowlers who have more variations, rather than one or two. The knuckle ball, guys who bowl the yorker well. Like Bhuvi, who is a specialist at bowling in the death.”

The bowling plans

An analyst who has previously worked with teams that have come up with strategies against Faf du Plessis told ESPNcricinfo that one of du Plessis’ release shots against seamers is to run down the pitch and hit them straight. Anyone who was successful on the night against du Plessis kept the length short when bowling to him. When Khaleel went full to him, he was hit for two boundaries. When Sandeep Sharma started full against du Plessis, he was hit for two fours as well.

Vijay Shankar seemed to have decided to bowl to this plan as well, and was rewarded first ball when du Plessis ran down the pitch and nicked him. Sunrisers always have plans. They’d dismissed Shane Watson using left-arm spin, the kind he’s fallen to most when it comes to slow bowling in T20s since 2015. With du Plessis’ wicket, they took full control.

Rashid Khan bosses the middle overs

Rashid had taken only six wickets in the seven games before this one, never having taken more than a wicket a game. An important reason why Sunrisers have so many sub-150 chases are the wickets they normally get from Rashid. The trends this year suggested that teams had looked to play him out at the cost of a few runs, as long they weren’t getting out to him. Rashid acknowledged this.

“Taking wickets or not, it doesn’t make any difference to me. I always try my best to bowl economically for the team,” he said. “If you see from the first game, I think batsmen [have] played more carefully than last year. Wickets are a bit different as well compared to last year. It doesn’t turn that much, it’s quite difficult to get them out until they make a mistake.”

An off-colour Suresh Raina looked to take him on, having already hit him for a boundary previously. But he was trapped, like many before, by a googly that just pitched in line of the stumps as he swung across the line. It was the line and length of someone looking to bowl economically, and of someone whose persistence with it usually results in batting mistakes.

Kedar Jadhav was the next one to do it, just three balls later, caught in front by a googly that would just clip leg stump. Two close decisions, two balls hitting the stumps, two reviews side-stepped. It seemed a familiar tale, and from there, Super Kings did not come back.

“I think initially when I bowled, in the first eight overs, the ball was a little bit new,” Rashid said. “I bowled two loose balls which were easy for the batsman to hit. But on a wicket like this, I think the more you bowl wicket to wicket in a good length area, [the more] it’s difficult for a batsman to hit. The first two overs were not as good as they should’ve been. But I just tried my best to back myself and bowl my best deliveries and to bowl as many dot deliveries as possible.”

A bit of fortune

You can’t have a successful trend of bowling well first up if you don’t win the toss often. Sunrisers didn’t win the toss on this occasion but they were helped by Raina who opted to bat. Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming said they had expected the ball to grip in the second half.

“Yeah, and I think it did,” he said. “We saw Imran [Tahir] and even Karn Sharma turning it towards the end. The problem is we just didn’t have enough runs. What we wanted to do was post a score and put their middle order under pressure. Ideally you get 170 and the trend of the game so far, the last couple of games teams chasing have really struggled so we wanted to use that method.”

That sub-par score might as well have been because of second bit of fortune for Sunrisers.

“[MS Dhoni]’s a great finisher, and you want as a team to finish the innings by taking the score from 130 to 160-170,” Rashid said. “That was the kind of difference which MS has been making in the whole tournament. Whenever the team struggled, he just came and finished the innings. So I think his finishing was crucial, and maybe CSK missed it.”

 

Source: Sunrisers’ vintage bowling attack takes them back to winning ways | ESPNcricinfo.com

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