Basil Thampi had played just three of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s 12 matches in IPL 2018 until Thursday (May 17) night, and acquitted himself with no little credit. With combined figures of 5 for 44 in 6.1 overs, he had stepped into the mid-season breach created by the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar through injury.
It wasn’t such a happy fourth outing for the strapping Kerala paceman at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, against a rampaging Royal Challengers Bangalore batting, after the visitors chose to rest Bhuvneshwar. Playing his first game in nearly three weeks, Thampi was taken apart first by Moeen Ali and AB de Villiers, then emphatically by Colin de Grandhomme, as he leaked 70 runs from his four overs.
The joint third worst figures in Twenty20 cricket played a significant, but not solitary, part in Bangalore amassing their highest total of the season, a whopping 218 for 6 studded with 20 fours and 12 towering sixes, including one off de Villiers’s scathing willow that cleared the ground and landed in the adjoining Queen’s Road.
Kane Williamson’s best bowling attack of the competition had been tamed for the second game in a row – Ambati Rayudu had driven them to their knees last weekend with a command century – in a match Bangalore had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. It was up to the batsmen to deliver, and the skipper took it upon himself to lead the charge, with an eighth score in excess of fifty this season as the dew began to make its presence felt.
In Manish Pandey, the captain found the ideal foil during a rollicking third-wicket stand of 135 that came off just 67 deliveries, and threatened to plunge the dagger deep into Bangalore hearts. Having dragged his team to the doorstep of a memorable win, Williamson (81) fell off the first ball of the final over, from Mohammed Siraj, with 20 needed, and the Chinnaswamy breathed a collective sigh of relief. Hyderabad ended on 204 for 3, going down by 14 runs.
Williamson easily played the innings of the night, showcasing the virtues of knowledge of one’s strength and belief in his abilities, no matter the format. There was hardly the frenetic tempo that de Villiers and Moeen had embraced earlier on, yet the New Zealand captain found the fence so often that gradually, worry lines began to crease Virat Kohli’s forehead. The euphoria generated by the leaping screamer from de Villiers at deep midwicket to account for the dangerous Alex Hales was rapidly dissipating as the crowd sensed a thriller emanating.
As awesome as he was, Williamson needed support, and that came from local lad Pandey. Off colour for most of the season and just four off 10 on the night, Pandey shed the shackles with a flat-batted four off de Grandhomme. That sparked an avalanche of breathtaking fours and sixes from both ends that even the decidedly partisan Bangalore crowd grudgingly acknowledged.
Yuzvendra Chahal and Umesh Yadav apart, the Bangalore bowlers took a beating during the third-wicket alliance but for all their pyrotechnics and brilliant crafting of a demanding chase, the task was just beyond Hyderabad. Already through to the playoffs, Hyderabad will chalk this batting effort down as a marker ahead of the matches that matter.
In the lead-up to the match, Bangalore head coach Daniel Vettori had spoken of the need for desperation with elimination looming. There was, however, little that was desperate about the stunning strokeplay of de Villiers and Moeen, who came together in the fifth over after Virat Kohli was knocked over by a googly from an Afghanistan bowler at this venue for the second time this season.
Hyderabad’s night began poorly when Deepak Hooda dropped a low chance at cover offered by Parthiv Patel off the first ball of the match, from Sandeep Sharma. It was the first of four drops, none of them spectacularly difficult, on a fairly patchy night for the visitors who also held some stunning catches. Parthiv perished in the same over, and de Villiers announced his arrival with four fours in his first seven deliveries, promising a rollicking stand with his skipper.
Kohli didn’t oblige. Bowled by a ripping googly from Mujeeb Ur Rahman that defeated his expansive drive and snaked through the gate when Bangalore played Kings XI Punjab, Kohli saw his attempted slog-sweep bring about his downfall as Rashid Khan rattled timber in his first over. A capacity crowd suddenly lost its voice, only to recover its full-throatedness when Moeen exploded in a frenzy of six-hitting.
A corking off-drive off Thampi set the tone as Moeen put even de Villiers to shade. Whenever Thampi, or Siddarth Kaul and Sandeep, tested out the bounce, the left-hand batsman sent the ball sailing into the stands at deep midwicket; when the ball was pitched up, he drove handsomely over the in- and outfield. While he dealt exclusively in sixes, de Villiers was happy to play second fiddle without lapsing into negativity. Thampi’s first over, the eighth of the innings, went for and 19 and opened the sluice gates as the bleeding continued unstaunched.
De Villiers was the first to fifty – his fourth in the last six innings – off 32 deliveries but Mooen was even faster, getting there off just 25 as the teen overs produced runs in the high teens. The sky seemed the limit but Rashid struck twice in three deliveries in his final over to evict both set batsmen. De Villiers was excellently caught by Dhawan on the deep square-leg fence after a stand of 107 in 57, Moeen was caught behind on the reverse sweep and Bangalore seemed set to lose momentum as the leggie signed off with wonderful figures of 3 for 27.
De Grandhomme had other ideas. The beefy Kiwi teed off as he mocked the length of the boundary, racing to 40 off just 17. With Sarfaraz Khan belatedly finding touch, 69 came off the final five overs and Bangalore were humming. An hour and a half later, the Chinnaswamy was still nervously buzzing, their heroes still afloat after a heart-stopping night. Watch out, Rajasthan Royals. Watch out, the playoffs.