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Yuvraj, pacers help Hyderabad set up Qualifier 2 date with Gujarat

Wisden India logo Wisden India 25-05-2016
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Perhaps the fact the home side hadn’t made it through to the Eliminator kept the denizens of Delhi away from the venue in large numbers. But those that braved a hot Wednesday (May 25) evening that gave way to a muggy night got their money’s worth at the Feroze Shah Kotla as Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders matched each other punch for mighty punch until David Warner’s men ran away with the bout in some style.

Despite being dealt an unkind cut in the form of Andre Russell’s continued absence through injury, Kolkata had always appeared a more balanced side coming into the first nominated knockout match of the Indian Premier League 2016, but not without reason did Hyderabad finish in the top four. A somewhat scratchy batting display salvaged by the brilliance of Yuvraj Singh, whose 44 was his highest score of the season, took Hyderabad to 162 for 8, just about par on a surface that wasn’t exactly a batting beauty.

Kolkata have been masters of the chase, explaining the rationale behind Gautam Gambhir’s decision to field first. But Hyderabad have the most versatile fast-bowling attack in the competition even minus the injured Ashish Nehra, and their assortment of right and left-arm quick bowlers of various hues and strengths packed quite a punch.

The heroes of the bowling unit were expected to be Mustafizur Rahman and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and they didn’t do badly. But Hyderabad were also excellently served by their two Australian allrounders, Moises Henriques having a very good all-round game and Ben Cutting turning in two tidy overs for the massive scalp of Gambhir.

All this translated to a fantastic 22-run victory as Kolkata, perhaps taken aback by the consistency of Hyderabad’s attack, were forced to settle for 140 for 8 when they ran out of time. While the two-time former champions’ exit means there will be a new winner come Sunday night, Hyderabad’s reward was a Qualifier 2 showdown at this same venue on Friday night against Gujarat Lions.

If they are honest to themselves, Kolkata will concede that at no stage did they seriously threaten the target – except briefly when Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav combined to amass 46 in just 30 deliveries for the fifth wicket. By then, Hyderabad had lopped off four wickets for just 69 runs inside 11 overs including the in-form Yusuf Pathan, excellently caught by Bhuvneshwar running in from deep midwicket.

Hyderabad’s fielding backed up the bowling all the way through except when Mustafizur tipped Suryakumar’s slash over the post at third man; Yuvraj scored a direct hit from point to account for Colin Munro, and Deepak Hooda kept his wits and his balance at long-on to evict the dangerous Pandey, the last hurdle between Hyderabad and victory. Pandey’s fall left Kolkata needing 38 off 22 but with all big guns licking their wounds. Mustafizur and Bhuvneshwar then sealed all escape routes.

In the evening, with Shikhar Dhawan falling early and Warner unusually subdued as Kolkata began strongly with the ball, Hyderabad needed to look beyond their opening pair to do the running. Kolkata were disciplined with the new ball, Yusuf bowling three overs in the Power Play for the first time in three years and doing it supremely well, and Morne Morkel justifying his return ahead of Shakib Al Hasan.

While Yusuf cramped Warner for room and bowled quickly enough for the Hyderabad captain not to line him up, Morkel made the most of Dhawan’s over-adventurism, hitting middle stump as the batsman backed away and tried to cut a straight, quick ball despite having just scored back-to-back boundaries. The opening stand yielded only 12, but it was enough to make Dhawan and Warner the first set of openers to put on 1500 runs in IPL cricket.

Warner’s struggles continued even after being put down by Yusuf on his follow through when on 10, but Henriques made sure the rate of scoring didn’t totally stagnate as he showed great positivity from the off. A towering pulled six off Yusuf set him on his way and he continued to bat with freedom even as Warner seemed to have found his bearing with two fours in Sunil Narine’s first over.

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The second-wicket stand had yielded 59 with Henriques the dominant force when Kuldeep Yadav made his presence felt. Preferred to Piyush Chawla for a second game in succession against Hyderabad, the young chinaman bowler got his own back after being smashed for a huge six when he outwitted Henriques and elicited a leading-edged skier off an attempted heave over midwicket. With his next delivery, he put an end to Warner’s misery with a googly that spun in sharply and ducked under the heave to hit middle stump.

It was an excellent display of not just craft and guile, but also heart and courage from Kuldeep, who did take some punishment from Yuvraj but otherwise remained a mystery for the rest, as Cutting was to find out later in the innings. Yuvraj and Hooda had no option but to play out a couple of quiet overs in the immediacy of Kuldeep’s double strikes, but the moment Yuvraj was allowed the liberty to free his arms and crash R Sathish over point, the momentum swung back towards Hyderabad.

From the time he was available for selection this season, Yuvraj has been there and thereabouts without really imposing himself. With his team in a spot, the senior batsman chose the perfect time to rediscover his best as the boundaries cascaded in a rush. Kolkata were suddenly pushed on to the back foot as Hooda too joined in the fun with a six apiece off Sunil Narine and Jason Holder so that 49 came for the fourth off just 36 deliveries.

With a little over four overs left, Hyderabad were primed for a final launch when indecision in running and a Kuldeep direct hit from mid-off sent Hooda on his way. When Cutting failed to read a Kuldeep googly and was easily stumped as he shook hands with the bowler, Hyderabad had lost two boundary-finders in the space of three deliveries. It meant all the heavy-hitting responsibilities lay with Yuvraj. Having played with characteristic authority all the way through, Yuvraj was dismissed trying to be cute, bowled round his legs by Holder. But Bipul Sharma smashed two massive sixes off Morkel in the final over. Vital runs that in the end pushed the task well beyond Kolkata.

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