By Suhas Nayse – SJFI Member
ABU DHABI: Kane Williamson on Friday proved why he is rated as one of the best batsmen in world cricket. His class was on full display as he struck an unbeaten half-century under tremendous pressure to steer Sunrisers Hyderabad to a nail-biting six-wicket victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Eliminator of the Dream11 Indian Premier League.
Fortunes fluctuated at every passing moment as both the teams fought hard at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium. In the end, SRH won the tense battle with two balls to spare to set up a clash with Delhi Capitals for a place in the final on Sunday. The winner of SRH and DC will face Mumbai Indians in the summit clash on Tuesday.
In pursuit of a modest target of 132, SRH struggled to get going against a disciplined bowling effort by RCB bowlers. Manish Pandey (24: 21 balls, 3×4, 1×6) and skipper David Warner (17: 17 balls, 3×4) had starts but could not make it count. The match was evenly poised when Priyam Garg (7) was dismissed at the score of 67 for 4 in the 12th over.
However, Williamson in the company of Jason Holder proved why experience matters the most in the pressure-cooker situation. The experienced campaigners slowly but surely marched towards the target by playing each ball on its merit. The 30-year-old Williamson took calculated risks on a few occasions but he was always in control of the situation. Holder provided rock-solid support from the other end to defy RCB, who crashed to their fifth consecutive defeat.
When 18 runs were needed in the last couple of overs, Mohammed Siraj conceded just nine runs to set up a thrilling final over. Navdeep Saini started off well and conceded just a solitary run on the first two deliveries to put pressure back on the SRH. With eight needed on the last four balls, Holder hammered a superb four towards cover region followed by another one through point to finish the match in style. It was the fourth victory on the trot for the 2016 champions.
While Williamson remained unbeaten on 50 (44 balls, 2×4, 2×6), the 29-year-old Holder played an equally-important innings of 24 not out (20 balls, 3×4). It was the 14th IPL fifty by Williamson. A crucial 65-run unbeaten partnership for the fifth wicket helped SRH make the cut for Qualifier 2.
Earlier, the five-member bowling attack of SRH rose in fantastic manner to restrict RCB to a modest total of 131 for 7. Holder spearheaded the SRH pace battery with an outstanding bowling performance. Drafted late in the side as a replacement for injured Mitchell Marsh, Holder has been contributing in almost every match of SRH to prove his worth. The tall West Indian all-rounder perhaps bowled his most crucial spell of this season when he grabbed a three-wicket haul to choke the RCB batting line-up.
Put in to bat by SRH skipper Warner, RCB were on the backfoot from the beginning. Captain Virat Kohli (6), who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Thursday, opened the innings in the all-important match. The move backfired completely as he departed cheaply.
Holder (3 for 25) and Sandeep Sharma bowled superbly in the powerplay and had the better of the opening exchanges in the match. Holder accounted for Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal (1) to reduce RCB to 15 for 2 in the fourth over. Aaron Finch (32), who batted at the No. 3 position instead of opening the innings, and AB de Villiers (56) attempted to resurrect the innings, but SRH kept taking regular wickets after their 41-run partnership for the third wicket.
De Villiers reached his half-century in the 16th over, but was dismissed by one of T Natarajan’s yorkers at the death. The left-arm paceman picked up a couple of wickets at the cost of 33 runs. Mohammed Siraj (10 not out) and Navdeep Saini (9 not out) batted well in the death overs to give some sort of respectability to the total.
Brief scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 131 for 7 in 20 overs (AB de Villiers 56, Aaron Finch 32, Mohammed Siraj 10 not out, Navdeep Saini 9 not out; Jason Holder 3-25, T Natarajan 2-33, Shahbaz Nadeem 1-30) lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad 132 for 4 in 19.4 overs (Kane Williamson 50 not out, Jason Holder 24 not out, Manish Pandey 24, David Warner 17; M. Siraj 2-28, Adam Zampa 1-12, Yuzvendra Chahal 1-24) by 6 wickets. Man-of-the-match: Kane Williamson (SRH).