Today, if not for the COVID-19 crisis, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders would have played each other in an IPL 2020 contest at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad. The home team would have fancied its chances as in the corresponding contest a year earlier, it consigned the Knight Riders to a nine-wicket defeat in what turned out to be a one-sided contest, thanks to some fireworks by Sunrisers openers David Warner and Johnny Bairstow.
Warner and Bairstow put on a magnificent display of power hitting to make a mockery of Knight Riders’ total of 159 for 8. It was the first IPL season for Bairstow, the wicketkeeper from Yorkshire, England, and he enjoyed success; the 131-run partnership for the first wicket with Warner against the Knight Riders was the one of numerous century partnerships in the season for the duo.
By the end of the tournament, Bairstow had played just 10 matches - he had to go back home for England duty - but finished 10th in the list of the highest run-getters, with 445 runs at an average of 55.62 and a strike-rate of 157.24. The first on that list? Warner, with 692 runs from 14 matches; as many as eight of his innings were half-centuries, and he scored a century as well.
As usual, he teed off more or less from the outset. Warner clubbed the ball repeatedly down the ground for sixes, besides employing the pull. Bairstow, on the other hand, was happy planting his left knee on the ground to unleash his slog-sweeps towards midwicket and down the ground. By the time the partnership ended, with Warner foxed by a slower ball from Prithvi Raj and dismissed bowled for 67 (38b), the contest was virtually over; with 7.4 overs remaining, Sunrisers needed just 29 more runs to win.
Bairstow continued the carnage, however, and finished the game by the 15th over. He finished with an unbeaten 80 (43b). He hit seven fours and four sixes in his innings. Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla was among the most expensive bowlers; he conceded 38 runs in his three overs, with three fours and three sixes hit off his bowling. Spinner K. C. Cariappa got hit for 34 runs in his two overs.
Bairstow’s innings could have been nipped in the bud, however, if Cariappa hadn’t spilled a simple offering at deep point early on in Sunrisers’ chase. It was a short, wide delivery from Prithvi Raj which was smashed via a square cut by Bairstow; Cariappa made a mess of it and allowed the ball to trickle over the boundary paddings.
This wasn’t the only reprieve. In the 12th over, Bairstow played the sweep off Sunil Narine, the ball caught the edge and ballooned up; the fielder at third man - Harry Gurney - tried to come under to take the catch but misjudged its trajectory. Then, in the next over, Chawla tumbled at midwicket but couldn’t take the catch.
There was a final twist to the tale; the man of the match wasn’t Bairstow or Warner. It was left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed, for his spell of 3 for 33 in four overs.
It was a forgettable night for the Knight Riders; it was their fourth successive defeat, and eventually, it couldn’t make it to the playoffs. Sunrisers, on the other hand, made it, but lost to Delhi Capitals in the Eliminator in Visakhapatnam.
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