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Misfiring middle order nullifies Warner-Bairstow impact

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What went wrong for Sunrisers in IPL 2019? (6:49)

Murali Kartik and Daniel Vettori dig deep and review a mixed season for last year's runners-up (6:49)

Where did they finish?

Fourth, equal on points (12) with Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab, but made it through to the Eliminator by virtue of a higher net run-rate. They lost that match against Delhi Capitals in a last-over finish.

What went right?

The David Warner-Jonny Bairstow opening partnership was irresistible. They played together in ten matches, putting on a whopping 791 runs. They put on four century stands and three other fifty-plus stands, meaning that they got Sunrisers Hyderabad off to great starts 70% of the time. They also scored their runs at a rapid clip, 9.84 an over.

It's no coincidence that of the six matches Sunrisers won this season, five came when Warner and Bairstow were opening the batting. Individually too, both had outstanding seasons. Warner made 692 runs in 12 matches at an average of 69.20 and a strike rate of 143.86. Bairtsow made 445 in 10 games, at 55.62 and 157.24. That no other Sunrisers batsman came within 100 runs of Bairstow spoke of how dominant the openers were. Warner and Bairstow scored 48% of Sunrisers' total runs.

What went wrong?

The middle order never turned up for Sunrisers. Manish Pandey had some bright moments that kept them afloat in the post Warner-Bairstow phase, but that apart, Sunrisers struggled once teams got a wicket or two. Neither Kane Williamson nor Vijay Shankar had any semblance of sustained success. The launching pads that the openers provided often went in vain, and Sunrisers also lacked a finishing kick. They showed faith in Yusuf Pathan, but it wasn't rewarded, with Yusuf ending the season with a strike rate of just 88.88 - his lowest by far in all IPL seasons, and the first time he has ended one at less than a run a ball. Yusuf made just 40 runs across the season, below par by any standards.

Key numbers

  • Sunrisers' middle-order basmen (Nos. 4-7) averaged just 16.02, the worst among all teams. Their strike rate was 120.96, higher only than Chennai Super Kings. With numbers like those, it's not surprising they were among the least effective in the second half of the innings while batting.

  • Rashid Khan picked up 17 wickets at an average of 22.17 and an economy rate of 6.28. He was outstanding, and the numbers stack up similarly to what he achieved in the last two years when Sunrisers were more successful as a team. What made the difference was the support cast. Sunrisers' bowling attack had been touted as the best among all eight teams, but the seam bowlers couldn't provide breakthroughs as regularly as they had done over the past few seasons, which meant that even though Rashid proved as difficult to read, or score off, as ever, his squeeze didn't have the same effect, because there were more release balls from the other end.

Star performers

The Warner-Bairstow partnership was of course the highlight, as were their individual performances, but another player who enjoyed an excellent season was Mohammad Nabi. Team combinations meant he played only eight games, but in those, he took eight wickets and conceded just 6.65 per over, mostly bowling out his full quota. He was also useful with the bat for cameos lower down the order, striking at 151.31. Coming in as he did after a sluggish middle order, his quick runs stood out even more.

What needs an immediate fix?

The bowling still has pedigree, and there's no reason to panic and make wholesale changes. It's the batting that let Sunrisers down this season, with even part of the bowlers' sub-par show explained by having less than adequate runs to defend. They need to find some reliable middle-order batsmen in the next auction, and ideally Indian middle-order batsmen. The likes of Yusuf, Deepak Hooda and Ricky Bhui weren't able to provide runs or thrust, and Sunrisers should aim to plug that gap.