“Sometimes, the normal shot doesn’t really travel that fast. So I was trying my luck with the back of the bat. I planned to play it between the keeper and the short third (man)." - Manish Pandey. © BCCI

“Sometimes, the normal shot doesn’t really travel that fast. So I was trying my luck with the back of the bat. I planned to play it between the keeper and the short third (man).” – Manish Pandey. © BCCI

Sunrisers Hyderabad came close to completing a remarkable win against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday (May 17), eventually going down by 14 runs after Bangalore had put up a massive 218 for 6. However, though the loss was tough, it hasn’t hurt Hyderabad much given that they have not only already qualified for the playoffs, but are also guaranteed a top-two finish at the end of the league phase. The other positive for Hyderabad was that Manish Pandey, who has had a middling season so far, showed glimpses of return to form during his unbeaten 38-ball 62 even though Hyderabad failed to chase a stiff target of 219.

“I and everybody was waiting for this, a special knock I think,” said Pandey after the match. “Bangalore is pretty close to me. I thought this was one of the chances I may get to bat with some balls in hand. I was preparing myself to play accordingly and open up. It has been okay for me until now, if not as much as I expected. But it was high time now. I know we have qualified but even if I peak now and win games for my team, I think I will be really happy by the end of the season.”

However, when asked about the reason for not being able to cross the line, Pandey refused to blame Basil Thampi, who went for 70 in his four overs, the most expensive figures in IPL history. “Cannot really point out that,” Pandey responded. “Overall, I think 215-220 was a lot on this wicket. We gave around 70 runs in the last five. (Colin de) Grandhomme played well, Sarfaraz (Khan) got some quick runs. We should have probably given them only about 190-200. That’s what our plan was. But it was a nice wicket comparatively. We should probably work as a bowling team together, and not just look at one bowler in particular.”

Hyderabad still had a chance with 20 required from the final over, especially with two set batsmen in Kane Williamson and Pandey at the crease. But Mohammed Siraj kept his calm, dismissing Williamson (81 off 42) on the first ball of the last over and conceding just five runs to seal victory for his side.

“When a wicket falls on the first ball, it sometimes becomes difficult to come back from there,” Pandey offered. “I think Siraj bowled really well to get those yorkers right on the spot. Probably if I had connected a couple, we would have come closer. But I think they bowled better five overs (at death) than we did.”

During the Hyderabad innings, Pandey was seen attempting a shot from the back of the bat on more than one occasion. However, the batsman failed to execute it properly.

“I have played that shot before in the practice games and even in the nets,” said Pandey. “Sometimes, the normal shot doesn’t really travel that fast. So I was trying my luck with the back of the bat. I planned to play it between the keeper and the short third (man). Even if I touch it a little bit it would go through. That was my plan but today it didn’t happen.”

In a tournament, where other teams have looked to win matches with the bat, Hyderabad have relied on their bowlers to script victories. The burden of scoring has fallen largely on Shikhar Dhawan and Williamson, and the duo has contributed more than 51% of the total runs scored by the Hyderabad batsmen. But Pandey felt it was time others stepped up as well.

“Last year when I played for KKR, we would wait to go to Hyderabad and play there because it would be a 180 wicket,” said Pandey. “But this time around, I thought the wickets were not as good compared to last year. You saw a couple of games with totals of 130-140. Our bowlers though bowled really well and won the game from there. But you cannot blame the wicket. It’s the responsibility of the middle-order batsmen to consolidate. I think we have done well in patches. We are lucky to have such a good bowling attack. And then some of the batsmen are in good form. Shikhar and Kane are playing really well at the top. They really set the base for us. But as I said it’s high time we come to the party and try to win games for the team.”

Williamson, who has been brilliant throughout the tournament, played another gem of an innings last night. Pandey was all praise for his skipper. “He has got about 600 runs this IPL already after this game and he has been batting really well,” Pandey gushed. “Regarding captaincy, he has been using the bowlers very well, like how to bring in our main spinners, Rashid (Khan) and Shakib (Al Hasan) who have been taking wickets for us. And then to control the game from there. The way the bowlers have responded to him, it has been really good. He has been fantastic till now and we hope that he continues like this till the end.”