Punjab Kings defend 125 to keep their hopes of making the top four alive
Punjab Kings 125 for 7 (Markram 27, Holder 3-19) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 120 for 7 (Holder 46*, Bishnoi 3-24, Shami 2-14) by five runs
With eight losses in nine games, Sunrisers Hyderabad are no longer in playoff contention. Punjab Kings knocked them out of the race with a tidy bowling performance that kept their own hopes of making the top four alive and kicking.
Sharjah has been the most difficult place for run-scoring among the three UAE venues in this IPL and it proved to be so yet again as Sunrisers struggled to cope with the variety in the Kings’ bowling attack.
When batting was relatively easier in the first innings, the Kings stumbled to 125 for 7. It was Holder who starred for Sunrisers with the ball as well, taking three wickets and eventually winning the Player-of-the-Match award too. But it would have been small consolation after such a tough loss.
Shami, Bishnoi impress
Wickets up top were always crucial when defending 125, and it was Shami who got that breakthrough in the first over. David Warner chased a wide ball only to edge it to KL Rahul. Shami then doubled up by dismissing Kane Williamson in his next over. The Sunrisers captain tried to punch a length ball through cover but it jagged back in and he chopped it onto the stumps.
That led to a period of apparent recovery from the other opener Wriddhiman Saha and No. 4 Manish Pandey. But while they did add 22 runs together, it came in 5.4 overs. Spinners Harpreet Brar and Bishnoi found bounce and turn respectively and Ellis bowled an assortment of cutters and slower balls, forcing false shots from the two batters.
With the bowlers choking the flow of runs, Pandey (13 off 23) felt it was time to break the shackles. But he fell victim to a googly from Bishnoi that went through the bat-pad gap to crash into the stumps. Soon after, Kedar Jadhav was out for a 12-ball 12, dragging a Bishnoi wrong’un onto his stumps. It wasn’t long before Bishnoi added another wicket to his tally, Abdul Samad out for 1 when his attempt at a slog went to short third man instead. Bishnoi finished with 3 for 24.
Saha played a lone hand in tricky conditions. His dismissal, for 30 off 36, came at a crucial time, just after Holder’s three sixes had brought the equation down to 35 off 24. Holder, for his part, looked like he was batting on a wholly different surface. Slot balls from Ellis and Shami were deposited for sixes straight down the ground as he reminded everyone of what a tiny ground Sharjah is, but the lack of support from the others meant he could not drag Sunrisers over the line.
Kings batters do just about enough
The IPL’s most consistent opening partnership between Rahul and Mayank Agarwal got only 26 runs on Saturday as the captain failed to get his timing right early on. Looking to increase the tempo, after a sedate four overs, Rahul flicked the first Holder delivery of the night to midwicket for a simple catch. Few balls later, Agarwal’s mistimed drive off Holder went straight to Williamson at mid-off.
The two West Indians who followed could not make much an impact either. Chris Gayle was out for a 17-ball 14, trapped lbw by Rashid Khan, and Nicholas Pooran was out for a four-ball 8 when he slogged a length ball right back to the bowler Sandeep Sharma. It was just reward for Sharma after his opening spell built the initial pressure that resulted in the Rahul and Agarwal wickets at the other end.
With both the track and the outfield nowhere near conducive for boundary-hitting, Aiden Markram held up one end to score a slow 27 and take the Kings closer to triple-figures. Cameos from Deepak Hooda (13), Brar (18) and Ellis (12) took them a little further. At the innings break, Rashid said that Sunrisers were ahead having restricted the Kings to a 125-total on a “140-par surface.” However it wasn’t to be as any hope of a Sunrisers playoff surge was extinguished with an even tighter bowling performance.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx