Sunrisers Hyderabad v Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL 2016, Eliminator, Delhi May 26, 2016

Sunrisers seamers make light of Nehra's absence

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mustafizur Rahman and Barinder Sran coped admirably without their injured bowling captain and defended 162 to keep Sunrisers Hyderabad on course for a place in the IPL final
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With Ashish Nehra out injured, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has grown into a leadership role in the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling attack © BCCI

Sunrisers Hyderabad lost Ashish Nehra at the worst possible time, at the brink of the knockouts. Nehra is more than just a bowler nowadays; he is the bowling captain, much like Zaheer Khan used to be for India. In his absence, and the absence of high-quality spinners, the onus was now on three men facing their own challenges. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was still regaining form, batsmen had begun to get used to Mustafizur Rahman's mystery, and Barinder Sran was a greenhorn, somebody Rajasthan Royals would have eased in this season had their team not been banned.

All three needed to come good on a knockout night when Sunrisers' batsmen put on 162, which in this tournament has been sub-par. While Moises Henriques and Ben Cutting did pick up wickets, the aforementioned trio didn't let Sunrisers miss Nehra. The leader in this crisis has been Bhuvneshwar. A year and a half ago he was trundling in and bowling at 110kph in the Sydney Test. He had been bowled into the ground in the five Tests in England. He had lost all strength, but has regained fitness now. He has built pace, he is swinging the ball, but perhaps most importantly he is shepherding Sran.

"The guys have stepped up [in Nehra's absence], and Barinder Sran has been bowling very well," the Sunrisers captain David Warner said after they defended 162 comfortably. "He is still learning, he is still a bit green, but he is always willing to learn. I think the big credit goes to Bhuvnesh because he has been helping him a lot. He has been talking to him day in and day out about what plans to have for different players."

It's not that easy to keep talking to Mustafizur. Warner even laughed off his drop at third man, which let off Suryakumar Yadav off the bowling of Sran. "You can't always catch Fizz." But while language might be an issue, Mustafizur has a beautiful cricketing brain. As the batsmen have wisened up to his cutters, he has begun to rely more on his yorkers. And these on the night were pinpoint, as Manish Pandey, a big-match player and a proven match-winner in the IPL, kept trying to find a way around them.

When Mustafizur came back for the 17th over, with the asking rate still an achievable two a ball, especially considering Pandey's presence and the small boundaries, he bowled five yorkers in one over. All of them followed the backing-away batsmen. That is a line you might want to leave alone with other bowlers but with his big cutters in the back of your mind you are always wary of the ones that pitch outside leg and start moving viciously towards you.

Bhuvneshwar continued the good work with another over of yorkers. One of them got Pandey's wicket. This double whammy of yorkers was a reminder of the two Kumars, Bhuvneshwar and Praveen, bowling yorker after yorker against the same opposition in a rain-shortened game last year. And they managed to do it on a pitch made for taller bowlers, who could bang the ball in and cash in on the slowness and inconsistent bounce.

"You look at Jason Holder and Morne Morkel," Warner said. "The length they bowled was very hard to hit. You know, tall bounce, hitting the wicket, sort of skidding on bail high. Very hard to get going and trying to hit and have release shots."

Sran won't mind conceding that he has been benefiting from the presence of the other two, and the pressure they create. This night wasn't his night although he took the first wicket and ought to have had two but for Mustafizur's drop.

The challenges are only going to get bigger. If Sunrisers are to go all the way to win the title, they will have to get the better of two heavy artilleries in Gujarat Lions and Royal Challengers Bangalore. They will need more of their skills and accuracy because they have neither the big tall quick bowlers nor the ace spinners. Bhuvneshwar will plot with Sran some more. On his own Mustafizur will need to keep staying one step ahead of the opposition. It will be some viewing if the three can team up to keep the Lions and Royal Challengers batsmen down.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • anshu.s on May 26, 2016, 19:37 GMT

    Nice article Sid but there are few riders attached , i am not denying SRH pacers bowled well but KKR batters and there batting style is unable to handle good accurately placed yorkers , replace the KKR batters with some like Joss Buttler or a Sarfaraz Khan who like to play the ramp/scoop/dink shots and all these yorkers will become cannon fodder , in one of the matches Sarfaraz took Bhuvi for 20 odd runs and Sanjay Manjrekar on air criticized Bhuvi for only bowling yorkers calling him predictable.

  • cooljack_143 on May 26, 2016, 14:52 GMT

    Everyone says that Hyderabd doesn't provide youngsters to the national team it doesn't encourage Indian talent,they rely upon foreign talent . But here is the stats - Dhawan Ojha Bhuvi karn sharma Ishanth sharma Naman Ojha henriques soon Ben cutting , de cock Parthiv Patel Pragyan Ojha Amit Mishra Darren Sammy Sran Rasool and may be more , all these guys have benefited extremely frm Hyd , be it past DC or current SRH and went on to represent national teams after they were highlighted in IPL. That shows leaps and bounds about Hyd franchises. I am hoping Davey Warner will be next T20 OZ captain for sure.Smith is outdated for T20. Hyd had some astute coaching staff ,Lehman who is coach of OZ now, Kris Srik Selector,Tom moody (I have a feeling he will be next Indian coach). If only reddy was given more chances like karn sharma or Hooda he would have well been in the national team as well.There is definitely some charm & X factor with Hyd franchises, just like the pearl city itself .

  • Nampally on May 26, 2016, 13:45 GMT

    SRH had 5 good pace bowlers who restricted the KKR bats. Henriques & Cutting bowled excellent line & length too, Sid. In fact without these 2 in the side SRH would have lost the match. Bhuvi was great as was Mustafizur in bowling the death overs. I also think Sharma's 14* was a super finale which put the SRH total up after a miserly 19th over by KKR. Hitting 2 sixers of Morne Morkel is no mean feat! I would say it was all round "team effort" where contributions from the team mattered more with some individuals standing out - Yuvraj in batting & Bhuvi in Bowling. Hooda again ran himself out for the 3rd time after a swash buckling innings. If he had stayed with Yuvi 180 total was possible. SRH has an ideal 5- pace economical combo who can bowl the 20 overs between themselves. If they did KKR would have struggled to get even 120! A great "Team" win SRH. Bring on the Gujarat Lions!

  • NoorBD on May 26, 2016, 13:43 GMT

    I think Warner should reconsider the field set for the Fizz. I saw many catch chances created by Fizz were dropped in no-man's lands. Or is it difficult to set fielding for mysterious Fizz? Two boundaries conceded in 13th over were curved over the infield, and both could be caught. Although credit must be given to the scooped boundary at 12.6 from Yadav. In 17th or 19th over, there were couple of catches in the no-man's lands as well.

  • pitch_curator on May 26, 2016, 11:44 GMT

    Good article. The real revelation yesterday was Ben Cutting. Three overs without conceding a single boundary !!! And he was not bowling many cutters. He was bowling a length which is extremely difficult to get away on that pitch and the field set was perfect for him. For Fizz, I still believe the field set is not perfect. Either mid off or mid on are staying in which is giving a chance to the batsmen.Better to have square leg in and have long off and long on back.

  • Naresh28 on May 26, 2016, 11:07 GMT

    @sampu - yea, was going to say the same thing about Bhuvi and Sran. Wonderful news for future test squad. I like Sran ever since i saw his bowling. Will mature into a good left armer. He is strong as well.

  •   Moh Rahman on May 26, 2016, 9:24 GMT

    The mystery of Fizz has been sorted. Ke cant even take wickets. He shouldnt play for the GL game.

  • sampu_sheikh on May 26, 2016, 7:32 GMT

    Bhuvi is back (literally as he has been named in the test squad). It'll only be a matter of time before Sran is there too (already touring Zim).

  • sreehk on May 26, 2016, 7:09 GMT

    Bowling changes were good by Warner. But plan a few big surprises for GL match. Open with spin of Bipul Sharma, he looks decent at least before batsmen are set. Then bowl second over from Cutting, add a slip and deep point, just so batsmen are not mentally prep for this. Then go with regular set to unsettle GL calculations. Otherwise they already know they will play Bhuvi, Sran and the order so no surprise. Going by RCB vs GL match, spinners opening will play on GL bastsmen mind and they won't take risk so SRH have an opportunity to squeeze a couple of tight overs upfront.

  • SamRoy on May 26, 2016, 3:57 GMT

    Sid, nice article as usual. However probably you could have mentioned about Ben Cutting and Moises Henriques bowling a mixture of seam up deliveries and cutters to increase the pressure in the middle overs (overs 7-12). The fact they did not bowl any loose balls and constantly varied their pace allowed SunRisers 80-odd runs to defend in the last 8.

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