Royal Challengers Bangalore 149 for 8 (Maxwell 39, Kohli 33, Holder 3-30, Rashid 2-18) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 143 for 9 (Warner 54, Pandey 38, Siraj 2-25, Ahmed 3-7, Patel 2-25) by six runs
They did it again at Chepauk. Only the cast changed, the drama remained the same. The team batting first got a below-par total, in the region of 150. The team batting second was cruising in their chase, and looked like they would walk it. Cue collapse, mayhem, and a thrilling win pulled from the jaws of defeat. If Mumbai Indians did it to Kolkata Knight Riders on Tuesday, it was the turn of the Royal Challengers Bangalore to pull a rabbit out of the hat against the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday.
The hero of a five-run win was the previously unheralded Shahbaz Ahmed, who might not even have been sure of making the XI given that Devdutt Padikkal was returning and the Royal Challengers had plenty of bowling options already. But Ahmed, with his left-arm darts, turned a game the Sunrisers had in their grasp on its head with a triple-wicket over in the 17th, as the Royal Challengers surged back into the contest. When Ahmed came on to bowl only his second over, the Sunrisers were 115 for 2, with 35 needed off 24. Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey, both coming off half-centuries, were at the crease, but Ahmed would go on to get both in the over, and add the wicket of the big-hitting Abdul Samad too.
ESPNcricinfo’s Smart Stats told the story of the match turning in that over, as the Sunrisers went from a win probability of 80.83 at the start of the over to 37.49 at the end.
It capped a fantastic day for Ahmed, who was pushed up to No.3 in the batting order and made a useful 14 off 10 too. He didn’t bowl more than those two overs, but ended with figures of 3 for 7. He was not the only great positive for the Royal Challengers, with Glenn Maxwell notching a fine half-century earlier to drag them to 149 for 8, giving the bowlers something to defend. That something turned out to be just enough at the end, as the Sunrisers unraveled to fall short by six runs. With victory, the Royal Challengers also moved to the top of the IPL 2021 table with two wins in two games.
The Rashid Khan effect
The Royal Challengers didn’t have too hot a start, which is critical to do against the Sunrisers because the middle overs are manned by Rashid Khan. His four overs were always going to be crucial, and the Royal Challengers needed their big three of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell to take Rashid on and deny him his usual breakthroughs. Rashid bowled 18 balls to the three combined, gave up only 15 runs and took the wicket of the most dangerous of them all in de Villiers. It was a masterclass in T20 bowling, never offering a hit-me ball and still being threatening enough that batsmen of that quality had to protect their wickets. He ended with 4-0-18-2 across two spells, having conceded only a solitary four.
Maxwell turns up
The last time Maxwell had scored a fifty in the IPL was before Rashid Khan was even part of the IPL, way back in 2016, when he made 68 off 42 against Kolkata Knight Riders. A new franchise, the surety that he’ll be batting at four and a team management that clearly believes in him, have started Maxwell off better in this IPL than he has in years. He wasn’t fluent to start with, having come in the over before Rashid started bowling, and took a while to get used to the pace of the Chepauk pitch. He was on 9 off 16 at the halfway mark, when he got stuck into Shahbaz Nadeem, looting two sixes and a four in a 22-run over, and then kept ticking to tide over the loss of Kohli and de Villiers, before crunching boundaries at the death, with 24 runs biffed off his final 11 balls. He brought up his half-century in the last over, off 38 balls, end ended with 59 off 41. That the Royal Challengers got something to bowl at despite Kohli never taking off in making 33 off 29 and de Villiers out for just 1 off 5, was down to Maxwell.
Warner takes off
After a failure in their opening game loss, David Warner was at his blistering best. He didn’t get much of the strike initially, but that didn’t hamper his rhythm, with the boundaries flowing. In perhaps a tactical error by the Royal Challengers, Warner faced only two balls from Washington Sundar, who was brought on in the powerplay alright, but only in the fifth over.
Manish Pandey struggled to pierce the gaps during a second-wicket stand of 83, during which the Sunrisers were still cruising thanks to Warner’s hitting at the other end. He looked in prime touch, until he swatted a slower bouncer from Kyle Jamieson down long-on’s throat.
Ahmed turns it around
Warner’s dismissal still left the Sunrisers needing 54 off 40 with eight wickets in hand, a fairly straightforward task in most T20 chases. However, the Sunrisers bowled a succession of tight overs that inched the required rate forward, until Kohli brought on Ahmed for the 17th over. Both Pandey and Bairstow thought that was an over they could target to ease up the chase, but Ahmed’s variations in angles and awkward height meant none of the batsmen could quite get a hold of him, and each one ended up skying the ball for easy catches. That one over completely turned things around and the Sunrisers’ brittle middle order cracked under the pressure, as batsmen kept falling even as the required rate kept rising.
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo