DC and SRH met in the penultimate clash of the season in Abu Dhabi. DC were coming off an IM blowout and looked like the underdog going into the knockout clash. Shreyas Iyer’s men were coming off 5 losses in their last 6 games and SRH were on top with 4 wins in their last 4 games. On top of that, DC’s hitting has been faltering for quite a few games and their hitting form hit a new low when they succumbed to 0-3 in a 200+ chase against MI in Qualifier 1. By contrast, both Warner and Williamson have been in a purple patch throughout the tournament and the addition of Holder has provided the orange army with the right balance in the recent past. In short, everything has gone well for SRH, while for DC it’s been a downfall after a bright start to the tournament.
It’s strange how a tactical change can completely turn the tide in your favor. Ricky Ponting has seen Marcus Stoinis start in the BBL and achieve reasonable success for the Melbourne Renegades. In a deciding match like this, the DC team management decided to give Stoinis a shot at the top of the order. These kinds of strategic changes in big matches can either turn out to be coups like we saw today or they can be detrimental like we saw for RCb last night. Fortunately for Iyer’s men, the move to promote Stoinis to the head of the order proved fruitful.
Stoinis provided the initial impetus for DC’s entry into the power play, something that has been terribly missing in recent games. The burly Aussie faced Sandeep Sharma and Jason Holder in powerplay overs, forcing Warner to resort to Shahbaz Nadeem’s spin in the 6th.he on. The belligerent attack from one wing gave Dhawan a few balls to establish himself in the crease, allowing him to set up for the long haul.
The SRH bowlers were caught napping at Stoinis’ attack as DC ran to 65 on the power play. Rashid Khan had to be brought on the attack as early as the 7thhe and though he scalped Stoinis with a beautiful broken leg in his second over, Stoinis had done his job by then. Shikhar Dhawan, who by then had already started to find the middle of the bat, took matters into his own hands and made sure DC didn’t go into a mid-hiatus.
Dhawan showed maturity when he played Rashid and tore through Nadeem from the other end. The absence of the 5he The bowler hurt SRH badly as the duo of Dhawan and Hetmeyer targeted Nadeem and Holder to take 99 of their 8 overs. Shikhar Dhawan played a smooth inning of 78 once again, to anchor the DC inning from one end. The fact that Dhawan scored 603 runs in the season despite scoring 3 ducks, says a lot about how Shikhar has been the backbone of Delhi’s batting this season.
Late pyrotechnics from Hetmeyer threatened to push DC into scoring over 200, but some excellent bowling from Natarajan ensured SRH was held to 189-3. Amid the carnage for Dhawan and Hetmeyer, 2 bowlers stood out for SRH. One was the very famous Rashid Khan, who is gaining so much respect from the opposition that they are deciding to remove him. And the other was the impressive king yorker Natarajan. Conceding just 32 of his 4 overs, despite bowling the most difficult overs is amazing, especially when the opposition have scored 9.5 per over.
SRH began on a somber note. Rabada dismissed Warner with a yorker, which was so identical to Bumrah’s yorker that he dismissed Dhawan last night. Rabada & Bumrah- 2 bowlers who have assumed legendary status at such a young age dismissing the opposition lynchpin by batting inch-perfect yorkers on successive nights. This is the reason why IPL is the best T20 league in the world.
Priyam Garg was unable to capitalize on the early opportunity when he fell to a cross shot from Stoinis, who had a dream night with the ball after his vigorous innings with the bat. Stoinis further dented SRH by firing Manish Pandey in the same fashion. Pandey tried to drive another cross stitch machine over the infield and got holed in the middle.
With 3 wickets down on the power play, SRH were once again looking to their banker Williamson to bail them out of trouble. Williamson, aided by Holder and then Samad on the other end, began doing what he does best: milking singles and doubles by punching holes. Williamson was particularly harsh on Ashwin and Axar, as he used his energetic footwork to good effect to hit 1-2 over limits against spinners. Indeed, Williamson’s onslaught meant that the DC spinners conceded 66 of their 7 overs.
Abdul Samad is another bright spot in the SRH lineup. He is someone who hits the ball clean and I hope we see him at the top of the list a lot more. He pushed Nortje’s serious pace over the edge and shone almost as brightly as Williamson tonight. Just as Williamson was threatening to take the game away from DC as they only needed 30 of the 2 overs is when Superman Stoinis struck again.
It’s fair to say that clever bowling from Stoinis got DC into the final, as with Williamson at the crease, SRH was going to chase him down. Having been clipped above a point for a cap earlier in the over, Stoinis slowed him down and lobbed him further against Williamson, who missed on time direct to Rabada and covers. The match was then made and Rabada’s wicket trio in the penultimate over put an official mark on it.
Will Stoinis’ brilliance surpass the Mumbai Indians? Or will it be a fifth title for the men in blue? We’ll wait to find out.