In a nutshell
After posting an underwhelming 135 on a slowish Hyderabad surface, the Gujarat Lions were unable to stop a Warner-Henriques charge, Hyderabad finishing the game with 27 balls and 9 wickets in hand.
How it unfolded
After being put in to bat, the Lions suffered the loss of Brendom McCullum in the powerplay. While Jason Roy played the aggressor in the opening stand, McCullum was slow off the blocks with just 5 off the 10 balls he faced. Rashid Khan continued his stellar run of form with 3 back-to-back dismissals, ripping the heart out of Gujarat’s middle order. In 3 successive overs, his skiddy leg-spin caught the former New Zealand captain, McCullum, Lions captain Suresh Raina and the former Australian limited overs captain Aaron Finch plumb in front. In the midst of the carnage, the set Jason Roy fell at midwicket off Bhuvneshwar Kumar. However, a face-saving 46-run partnership between the in-form Dinesh Karthik and Dwayne Smith allowed the Lions to put up a semi-competitive total. They fell in quick succession in the back end of the innings, off Nehra and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and the innings quickly fell away without any meaningful contributions from the lower order. The Lions sputtered to 135 in their 20 overs, after 1 more wicket, that of Dhawal Kulkarni in a run-out and the Sunrisers were by far the happier of the two camps in at the changeover.
Shikhar Dhawan fell early to Praveen Kumar off a leaning edge to cover in the 4th over. From then on it was one way traffic, with David Warner coming back to form, scoring a rapid 76 off 45 balls. He was partnered by Moises Henriques, who contributed with a fine 52 off 39 and the duo took the match completely out the Lions’ hands. They chased down the sub-par target in 15.3 overs, completely dominating the chase.
Where the game was won
Rashid Khan’s spell of 3-19 off 4 overs, which took out the Lion’s experienced middle order was the changing point in the game. The team that relies heavily on the strongest top 6 in the tournament was rendered helpless without their 3 best batsmen and were not able to put up the total needed to beat the Sunrisers at their Home ground. His variations, as well as the skiddy pace off the surface left the batsmen with few options, and got wickets when they tried to play attacking cross-batted shots to his bowling.
David Warner’s comeback to form took the pressure off his middle order. He allowed Moises Henriques to play the supportive role as he took the attack to the bowlers.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 4 over spell was an excellent display of limited overs pace bowling in the subcontinent. He hit his lines and lengths with subtle variations, allowing the batsmen to make a mistake. His 2 wickets prevented 2 dangerous batsmen from cutting loose.
What this means for the tournament
The table so far has the sunrisers sitting squarely at the top. While their games so far have both been at home, and it will be interesting to see how they perform away, their dominance so far is a sign of good things to come for the reigning champions.
The Gujarat Lions need to turnaround their performances soon, or they will be fighting an uphill battle to qualify for the play-offs. Not only do they struggle on the points table in the wins column, but 2 heavy losses have not done wonders for the Lions’ net run rate either. They will need to sorely up their game to stay competitive this tournament.
The Sunrisers’ tournament so far has been clinical. Without their bowling talisman, they’ve still come out trumps in their 2 outings so far. The middle order has fired with two good performances from Henriques. If their home ground gets slower with time, that will benefit the likes of Rashid Khan, who showed his class on slow pitches, Moises Henriques, who is used to playing on a slowish SCG, Ben Cutting, whose cutters will be effective on a slower pitch, and Mustafizur Rahman, whose trademark off-cutter is deadly on slower pitches. Their batting is adept at chasing smaller totals extremely well, and will act as a foil to the bowling unit. They will go into their match against the Mumbai Indians confident of another solid performance.
Are there words left to say about the Gujarat Lions? The disappointing run continues, with demoralising losses against two good teams. On paper, they look potent, but somehow field an XI that’s extremely unbalanced. Their top 6 is extremely strong, but there are no recognised batsmen after that. Their bowling is equally weak, with Praveen Kumar not looking the bowler he was in his youth, Dhawal Kulkarni looking far from penetrative and Basil Thampi, Shivil Kaushik and Tejas Broka looking, frankly, inept at this level. The Lions need to deeply reconsider their bowling, perhaps by dropping 1 or 2 of their overseas batting stars for Indian replacements. They would be well-served to give one, or perhaps both of their Australian pacers, James Faulkner and Andrew Tye a go in the first XI. Furthermore, they might consider Manpreet Gony to play as a bowling allrounder, who would give their side some balance, as well as experience in the Indian bowling contingent. Their next game is versus the Supergiant at home, and a good bowling attack is necessary to keep the likes of Steve Smith and Ajinkya Rahane quiet.