Sunrisers Hyderabad 156 for 2 (Pandey 83*, Shankar 52*, Archer 2-21) beat Rajasthan Royals 154 for 6 (Samson 36, Stokes 30, Holder 3-33) by eight wickets
Manish Pandey's counter-attacking 83 not out off 47 balls, studded with four fours and eight sixes, nullified Jofra Archer's opening burst in the second innings as the Sunrisers Hyderabad beat the Rajasthan Royals by eight wickets in Dubai. The win - their first in five attempts while chasing in IPL 2020 - lifted them to the fifth spot on the points table. While the Royals too have eight points, they have played 11 games to the Sunrisers' ten, with their negative net run rate further reducing their playoff chances.
After being put in, the Royals struggled to get going and could manage only 154 for 6, the lowest first-innings total by any team in Dubai this season. A big reason for that was Jason Holder, who came in for the injured Kane Williamson and picked up a three-wicket haul.
The Sunrisers didn't have a great start to their chase either. Archer sent back David Warner and Jonny Bairstow by the third over but those turned out to be the only two wickets the Royals managed in the whole game as Pandey and Vijay Shankar - who struck an unbeaten 51-ball 52 - added an unbeaten 140 for the third wicket and took the side home with 11 balls to spare.
Uthappa run-out breaks Royals' momentum
After managing only nine in the first two overs, the Royals looked to step up with Robin Uthappa hitting Sandeep Sharma for a six and a four in the third over, but his innings was cut short by a brilliant piece of fielding. Ben Stokes looked to dab Jason Holder on the off side but the ball hardly went off the square. Uthappa was keen for a quick single and charged towards the other end with Stokes barely moving. Holder was quick to the ball and nailed the direct hit at the bowler's end to find Uthappa short.
Sanju Samson though hit Sandeep Sharma for successive cover-driven fours to keep the Royals ticking. It looked like it was going to be his night, especially when he pulled Holder over deep midwicket for a six in 12th over but Holder cleaned him up next ball with an offcutter for a 26-ball 36.
Stokes fails to cash in on early luck
Stokes was 13 off 11 balls at the end of the fifth over and was trying to break free. One such attempt against Shankar fell just short of the deep-backward square leg. Two overs later, he tried a reverse sweep against Rashid Khan that bounced in front of deep backward point. On the last ball of the same over, Shankar put him down while running to his right from deep square leg. Stokes, though, failed to utilise those chances and was finally bowled for a 32-ball 30 by Khan.
Holder's strikes keep Royals in check
Royals were looking at Jos Buttler to provide impetus to the innings but once he fell for 9 off 12, Steven Smith looked to take charge. But he soon holed out to long-on off Holder, while trying to dig out a full delivery. Riyan Parag, who had hit T Natarajan for 4, 6, 4 in the previous over, then mistimed a slower short ball to a back-pedalling Warner at mid-off to give Holder his first three-wicket haul in T20s since 2015. It took a four and a six from Archer in the 20th over pushed the Royals past 150.
Archer gets Warner and Bairstow
Before this game, Archer had dismissed Warner five times in six innings across formats in 2020 while leaking only 28 runs off 41 balls. On Thursday, Warner lasted only four balls against the pacer. After beating him on the first two balls of the innings, Archer drew an outside edge that flew over Rahul Tewatia at first slip. Next ball Archer found the outside edge once again. This time the ball flew knee high to the left of Stokes at second slip, who dived full length to complete the catch.
Bairstow too had no answer to Archer's pace as a 149kph length ball found its way through the gap between bat and pad to leave the Sunrisers 16 for 2 at the end of three overs.
Pandey's counter-attack nullifies early impact
With no Williamson in the side and doubts over the Sunrisers' middle order, there was a case for Archer to bowl a third over in the powerplay but the Royals decided against this. That allowed Pandey to counter-attack to pull the Sunrisers out of the trouble. He was one off five balls before he hit Kartik Tyagi for consecutive fours. Stokes replaced Archer from the other end but he too wasn't spared. A half-volley on the leg stump was whipped over deep square leg. When Stokes tried a bouncer, Pandey pulled him over deep midwicket off the front foot.
Tyagi came in for more punishment in the next over as Pandey struck a four and two sixes to take the Sunrisers to 58 for 2 at the end of the powerplay. By the end of the ninth over, Pandey had brought up his fifty, off just 28 balls.
Shankar proves to be the perfect foil
Earlier in the day, Shankar had registered figures of 1 for 15 from his three overs. With the bat, his 10 off 18 at the halfway stage in the chase looked unattractive, but with Pandey striking at a much higher rate at the other end, his job was to just stay with him.
Back-to-back inside-out fours over cover off Shreyas Gopal helped Shankar turn things around. So much so that when Smith brought Archer on for his fourth over - the 16th of the innings - Shankar hit his first three balls over mid-off, over mid-on and over the bowler's head for a hat-trick of fours. Pandey collected two more sixes in the next two overs before Shankar sealed the game with a pulled four off Tyagi in the 19th over.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo