SRH kicks off title defence in style by crushing RCB
It is 2017 already, but the new year does not really sink in until the star-studded Indian Premier League kicks off, even though it is April and already brutally hot. This year, the runners-up of the last IPL (and seemingly every IPL), the Royal Challengers Bangalore, were travelling to Hyderabad for the traditional rematch against the champions Sunrisers Hyderabad. Typically, the opener is reserved for the losing side to exact a revenge of sorts on the champions, but SRH handed out another lashing to the RCB, proving their supremacy yet again.
Put to bat first on a pitch where the ball came onto the bat easily, SRH relied on Yuvraj’s blitzkrieg with the bat (which included a lovely stand-and-deliver six) and Moises Henriques’ half century to post a competitive total of 207. The innings was marked by contributions from everyone in the top order including a useful knock by Shikhar Dhawan and late order fireworks by Cutting. This certainly bodes well for the SRH side, who are certainly looking to defend the hard earned title this year. On the other hand, the RCB bowling attack was not able to extract anything from the intensively batting-friendly pitch at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, with only spinner YS Chahal not taken to the cleaners. Although a 200-plus total is immensely defendable, SRH must have liked a little more cushion considering the pitch and the fact that the RCB batting lineup included the likes of Chris Gayle and Shane Watson, any of which could easily destroy the best attacks in the world.
And surely enough, Gayle and Mandeep Singh seemed to build on a dangerous partnership, reaching the fifty mark in the fifth over with no loss of wickets, before Mandeep was bowled out by debutant Afghan bowler Rasheed Khan, marking a big moment for him and Afghan cricket. Soon after, Gayle was sent packing by Hooda, caught off a miscued shot by skipper Warner. After the loss of Gayle and Singh, it fell to Head and KM Jadhav to stabilise the run chase, and it seemed to be working till the 10-over mark, although the run rate had definitely slowed. Under mounting pressure, both Head and Jadhav fell, with Head being foxed by a lovely googly by Rashid, capping a great debut for him. After this, it was a slide for the Bangalore side, with stand-in skipper falling cheaply, and the tail refusing to wag under the pressure of the mounting required run rate. They were bowled out for 172, a good 35 runs short.
Although this is only the first match in a long tournament, it is clear that skipper Virat Kohli is being sorely missed. Another takeaway from the game was the stellar opening performance of Rashid Khan, bringing into fold cricketers from places we would not have heard about in ODIs or Tests.