Role reversals are an uncommon part of team plans in T20 cricket where there is a lot of thought behind getting their first plans of action right, and executing them. For Sunrisers Hyderabad, chasing their first win of IPL 2020, the reversals forced upon them early in the game could have seen yet another game gone haywire.
Jonny Bairstow and David Warner are their designated enforcers at the top of the order. But when Delhi Capitals restricted them to just 24 in their first five overs of the powerplay, there was a need to reassess plans given the longer boundaries at play in Abu Dhabi, coupled with accurate bowling. Coach Trevor Bayliss attested to the team's ideologies to the broadcasters, when he stressed that SRH remain "flexible" with their plans once on the ground.
Bairstow and Warner showed what that was when they began to push for the twos and got them five times in the tens balls after the powerplay. Overall they'd do it four more times in their partnership of 77. That these plans are not an outdated concept even in a format like T20, and even by boundary-first hitters, was evident when the opposition coach singled it out for praise.
"Sunrisers rotated the strike well and they had few of their top order batsmen going on to make big scores. At the end of the day, I think that was the difference in the game. I thought Warner just played those conditions really well early on. They got the boundaries when they wanted to and ran twos exceptionally well to the balls in the outfield, which is something we talk about on these big grounds," said Ricky Ponting, Delhi Capitals' coach in the post-match press conference.
While that Plan B ensured that Sunrisers stayed at par in the game, it wasn't going to be enough to be a gamechanger. Warner with five boundaries in 33 deliveries had fared better than Bairstow who managed only three in 48, but the run-rate still needed a boost.
Including Kane Williamson in the eleven at the cost of Mohammad Nabi was "a big call" admitted Warner after the game. It might not have happened if SRH did not feel the need to strengthen their malfunctioning middle order. The match-situation that Williamson walked into demanded he play a role he wasn't accustomed to.
He began by matching the earnestness in running and turning the strike over - he played only one dot in his 26-ball stay. The 52-run stand between him and Bairstow came off 39 balls, and saw five more dots at the other end. But Williamson was finding ways to make up for those too, bringing about his wrists to find gaps and reading the field to bunt it over the 30 yard-circle.
The methods yielded him five boundaries and a strike-rate of 157. Nobody who batted for more than 12 balls came close to matching him from either side. No one probably thought this possible at the start of the game, but it was another of the flexible plans coming good for SRH.
Contrastingly, a lot more went right for SRH on the bowling front. Rashid Khan picked up his best IPL figures, their pacers landed the yorkers at a better rate at the right times. Their weakest link, left-arm spinner Abhishek Sharma, went for just 38 in his quota against heavily unfavourable match-ups. In Ponting's words their target bowler had "snuck away from them a little bit".
The end result showed a 15-run gap between the two sides, a comfortable margin, but unrevealing how the core batting group changed colours to enable this difference.
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