On paper, the second match of the first double-header of Indian T20 League 2021’s UAE phase was not the most appealing encounter. The two teams who locked horns in Sharjah yesterday were Team Hyderabad and Team Punjab.
One of the main reasons why this particular game did not have the usual hype is that the result of this game would not have had any major implication on the race for the playoffs. Having won only one of their first eight matches, Hyderabad’s chances of qualifying for the playoffs was as good as null before this match itself.
Up against them were Punjab, who had won only three of their first nine matches prior to this game. Unlike Hyderabad, they still had good chances of making it to the playoffs, but for it to happen, they needed to win all of their remaining matches. But keeping all of their pre-conceived notions aside, the match we witnessed yesterday was a proper edge-of-the-seat thriller.
Uncharacteristic Sharjah, uncharacteristic Rahul-Agarwal partnership
The stadium here at Sharjah was famous for its incessant downpour of sixes, until this season. The pitch we saw yesterday was totally opposite of what people associate this ground with, as run-scoring seemed to be a real challenge, and the ball spun quite a bit.
The Sharjah pitch wasn’t the only aspect of this game that deviated from its usual behaviour, as Punjab’s opening pair too had a bad day at the office. The men in red are usually dependent on their top two, but neither KL Rahul nor Mayank Agarwal could play a long knock today.
KL Rahul was dismissed in the first ball of the fifth over by Jason Holder, while four balls later, the big West Indian got the wicket of Mayank Agarwal. As a result, Punjab found themselves struggling at 29/2 after the first six overs.
Gayle-Markram steady the ship, but run rate keeps dipping
After the dismissal of the opening duo, Aiden Markram and Chris Gayle, who was brought back in the team after being dropped in the last match, steadied Punjab’s innings. They managed to keep the wickets column at 2 till 10 overs, but what they could not manage was playing big shots.
Gayle scored 14 runs from only 17 balls, before he was caught leg before wicket by Rashid Khan. His national teammate Nicholas Pooran hit a six in the next over, but on the very next ball, he threw his wicket away as well. At the end of 12 overs, Punjab found themselves struggling at 68/4.
In the next few overs, Aiden Markram and his new partner Deepak Hooda dealt mainly in singles, with an occasional boundary here and there. Trying to dispatch a juicy full-toss by Abdul Samad into the stands, Markram gave a simple catch to Manish Pandey in the 15th over. In the next over, substitute fielder Jagadeesha Suchith took a blinder of a catch to dismiss Deepak Hooda, to complete Jason Holder’s 3-wicket haul. The South African scored 27 runs, while the Indian all-rounder scored 13 runs.
Harpreet Brar ensures a respectable total on the board
After the end of 16 overs, Punjab were 97/6, and with no recognized batter left to come and Rashid Khan still having an over left, it seemed as if Punjab could be bowled out in the next couple of overs.
That, however, did not happen, thanks to Harpreet Brar’s fighting knock and a supporting hand by debutant Nathan Ellis. After somehow tackling their first two overs together, where they amassed only 7 runs, Brar and Eliis went for the big shots in the last two overs. 7 runs came from Holder’s 19th over, while 14 runs came off Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 20th, which turned out to be very important runs come the end of the match.
Warner fails again, and so does Williamson
Though the pitch did not particularly suit the batters, the target of 126 was totally gettable. All Hyderabad needed was a patient and steady start without the loss of wickets. That was not meant to be, as Punjab picked up the big wicket of David Warner in the very first over.
The Australian should be really disappointed with the manner of dismissal, as he edged a ball that was well outside off and could have been left easily. Shami struck again, in what was his, and Punjab’s third over. This time around, he bowled the opponent’s skipper, Kane Williamson.
Wriddhiman Saha keeps on fighting with no real support
Wriddhiman Saha, Hyderabad’s wicket-keeper, tried to keep the men in orange in the game, but he needed someone at the other end to play an equally important inning. Manish Pandey tried to hang around, but he could only score 13 runs from 23 balls, before his stumps were knocked over by Ravi Bishnoi.
It seems as if Kedar Jadhav’s bad form will not leave him behind, as though the Hyderabad management showed faith in him to give him another chance in the playing XI, he failed to deliver yet again. He scored only 12 runs and was bowled in the 13th over, with Ravi Bishnoi being the wicket-taker this time around as well.
After his superb bowling effort, Holder does a good job with the bat
In the same over where Jadhav lost his wicket, Bishnoi also dismissed Abdul Samad. At that stage, Hyderabad were struggling at 60/5 at the end of 13 overs. The required run rate was nearly 10, and though Saha was trying to build a long inning, he was not playing the big shots.
At such a crucial point in the game, Jason Holder turned the match in Hyderabad’s favour. He hit Hyderabad’s first six of the match in the 15th over, and then in the 16th over from Nathan Ellis, he hit two back-to-back sixes. All of a sudden, Hyderabad were 91/5 after 16 overs, and the target looked ever so close.
A miscommunication results in a missed opportunity to pick up points
With Saha and Holder going strong and Hyderabad needing only 35 runs from 24 balls, one would have really fancied Hyderabad’s chances. But on the first ball of the sixteenth over, a miscommunication between the two batters resulted in Saha getting run out.
That wicket turned out to be costly, as from there onwards, Holder did not have a partner who could support him. A six in the 17th over and another in the second ball of the last over brought them closer to the target, but they were ultimately 5 runs short of the total.