SRH and RCB met in the first heat of the season. It has been a diametrically opposed journey for these two teams through the league stages. RCB started well and peaked when they decimated KKR by a paltry 84 runs in their 10he league game But from there, it’s been a relegation for Kohli’s men. They have lost their last 4 league games to simply squeeze into the playoffs by beating KKR on NRR. The momentum was not with them and that was visible in the 4 erratic team changes they made in the tie. It was prominent that they were looking for the right combination going into the eliminator.
SRH, on the other hand, blew hot and cold all season long. Their low point of the season came in their 11th league match where KXIP successfully defended a score of 126 against them. From then on, there has been a sudden turnaround beating DC, RCB and MI in 3 straight games to reach the playoffs. The introduction of Saha in place of Bairstow had given SRH the freedom to play the underrated Jason Holder and the West Indian had turned the matches around on their own. Saha’s brilliance at the helm of the order had also given Warner the freedom to attack on the power play. Ultimately, all of their puzzle pieces seem to have fallen into place before the playoffs.
SRH won the toss and elected to field. However, they took a heavy blow even before the match, as Saha, in top form, had to sit out due to injury issues. SRH had a similar replacement in Goswami and he was drafted in game 11. RCB came in with an extra batsman and 4 spinners. The pitch seemed to be dry and it seemed to be a correct move from the start.
Virat opened the batting with Paddikal, a move that clearly indicated that RCB were trying to turn things around to turn their fortunes around. Virat looked cautious in his brief stay in the crease before being choked out of the side of the leg by a long Jason Holder. The underrated West Indies all-rounder continued to make a dent in RCB’s batting line-up, as he dismissed Paddikal stuck in square leg in the next over to bring RCB back on the power play.
Finch and ABD were left to do the rebuilding job, and to be honest, it’s extremely difficult to rebuild an inning against the brilliance of Rashid Khan. Rashid’s continuous barrage of googlies ensured neither Finch nor ABD had room off the stump to exploit the short offside limit. Rashid and Nadeem bowled in tandem and exploited the slowness of the wicket to the fullest while the pressure from the point balls led to Finch and Moeen playing pointless shots and missing their wickets.
ABD was once again RCB’s lone warrior as he teamed up with Shivam Dube and Washington Sundar to lead RCB to a competitive score. Although the South African genius managed to score half a century, the pace of the innings was much slower than he wanted and that deprived his team of momentum.
Zaheer Khan’s yorker to Steve Waugh in the 2000 ICC Champions Trophy has been the talk of the next two decades. It officially marked the start of Zaheer’s career in international cricket and the same can be said about Natarjan’s yorker to ABD tonight. Natarajan has specialized as a death pitcher this season and time and time again has delivered the crunch overs for SRH. However, his yorker to Castle ABD this match was one for history and would be one of the highlights in this year’s IPL. After AB’s dismissal, RCB achieved a score of 131, which seemed below average even on a slow surface.
SRH came out to bat with positive intent, but missed Saha terribly at the top. Shreevats Goswami was dismissed early by a bumper from Siraj and Warner had to switch to his solo batting mode once again. However, with a required run rate of just 6.5, Warner’s restricted hitting did not affect the required score rate much. Just when it looked as if SRH were going to wander to 42-45 on their power play with only the loss of 1 wicket, Siraj removed Warner.
To be honest, I felt the third referee’s decision to call Warner out was really brave. There was not enough evidence to overturn the decision clearly and there was enough doubt as to whether the ball touched the pad or the gloves at the point of impact. It was one of those decisions, which could have caught the attention of many if SRH had lost the match.
The real game changer for RCB was his twins Chahal and Zampa. Zampa has improved a lot in terms of line accuracy and length. In fact, he was commendable conceding just 4 runs in his first 2 overs against decent players like Manish and Williamson. In fact, the spin choke of Chahal and Zampa produced 2 valuable wickets for RCB at the intermissions in the form of Pandey and Garg.
The required rate was threatening to cross 8 when the man of the hour jumped into the fray. Williamson is one of those players, beloved around the world. Even if he’s in your opposition, you’re happy when he scores runs. Tonight, he showed the value, what he brings to the table and why SRH has preferred him to be in Game 11 over Johny Bairstow.
Just as Chahal and Zampa were putting their webs around SRH’s batting, Williamson decided to take matters into his own hands. He made sure that the dot ball percentage was reduced by successfully employing the drop-and-run technique. With singles and doubles scored on every ball, Virat hit the deep square leg and wicket half into the circle. Williamson sensed the opportunity and played 2 safe sweeps against 2 googlies from Chahal and Zampa to reduce the scoring rate.
Jason Holder is an underrated player and his exploits in red ball cricket with the bat is something that deserves more attention. In fact, a year ago, Holder himself appeared in the press to state that he is perfectly capable of hitting in the top 5, but his bowling workload prevents him from doing so. Tonight he played with his mature head and delivered the shot to Williamson to ensure RCB did not pull off a miracle.
Williamson, on the other hand, played copy cricket shots to guide his team home with a half century without a chance. Holder’s covering drives in the final ensured that Kane’s entry was not in vain as SRH edged past RCB for the second-place finisher of the season. With momentum in their favor, SRH could be the favorite heading into the clash with an out-of-form DC in a couple of days.