In a Twenty20 game, not many would give a side a chance after being restricted to a total of 125. It looked a lost cause for Punjab Kings when they took the field against Sunrisers Hyderabad in a crucial Indian Premier League game at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Saturday. In a must-win situation in their remaining matches to stay in contention for a play-off berth, a second straight defeat inside two days would have sounded the death knell.
Like so many times in his career, Mohammed Shami again came to his team’s rescue. In an inspired opening burst of 3-1-5-2, the class of the seam bowler shone through as he brought Punjab Kings back into the game.
It should have been an easy win for SRH. Instead, they ended up looking miserable chasing a low total. They were 20 for two off six overs during the powerplay. After 10 overs they were 43/3, needing 83 off 60 balls.
Wriddhiman Saha was run out on the first ball of the 17th over for 31 and at 92/6 after 16.1 overs, SRH needed 35 off 23 balls, making it anybody’s game.
Jason Holder stood between PK and victory. He was the bowler who had put the brakes on the Kings innings with three important wickets. He capped it with a fine cameo with the bat. The 6-foot 7-inch cricketer smashed four sixes to take it as close as 17 off six balls. He smashed the second ball of the last over bowled by debutant Nathan Ellis for his fifth six and needed to hit a six off the final ball to tie the scores. Holder couldn’t get the elevation on the last ball. The five-run win kept King’s hopes alive in the tournament.
It’s no secret how much SRH depend on their overseas batsmen. SRH were off to the kind of start they dreaded. By the end of the third over, Shami had prized out David Warner and Kane Williamson. Off the third ball of the innings, he sent back Warner, slashing outside off to be caught behind. He followed it up with the all-important wicket of Williamson in the third over.
Punjab’s defeat in their last game against Rajasthan Royals was their own doing, failing to get four runs in the last six balls. There was criticism of their team selection as well. On Saturday, there were three changes. Sprightly leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi was back. He didn’t disappoint. After the good work of Shami, he kept up the pressure by taking the wickets of the experienced Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav. When he had Abdul Samad caught by Chris Gayle, SRH were 60/5 after 13 overs. His figures read 3-0-13-3, the equation 66 runs off 42 balls.
Bowling an aggressive line outside off-stump, Bishnoi bowled Pandey with a googly, Jadhav chopped the ball on to his stumps and Samad was caught off a leading edge trying to hit out.
The first-leg game between the sides was played at Chennai’s M A Chidambaram Stadium, with SRH winning the low-scoring match. Though the venue shifted to the Sharjah Stadium, the pitch was similar—a slow, spinning track.
SRH had then restricted PK to 120 all out. In a repeat, they again kept them down to 125 in 20 overs.
The SRH pace bowlers, Holder and Sandeep Sharma, adept at taking the pace off the wicket, made life miserable for the batters. Holder had figures of 4-0-19-3, Sharma complemented him with a performance of 4-0-20-1. Rashid Khan was himself, conceding 17 runs in his four overs while winning the battle with T20’s most destructive batter, Gayle.
Punjab Kings 125/7 (A Markram, J Holder 3/19) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 120/7 in 20 overs (W Saha 31, J Holder 47*, M Shami 2/14, R Bishnoi 3/24). PK won by five runs.