Sunrisers' 'smart, aggressive' strategy pays off

"We both wanted to make it big and that's what happened. I was feeling good about myself today and knew what plan I am going to go with" - Shikhar Dhawan BCCI

In the last few games, Sunrisers Hyderabad have not scored at the rate they have wanted to at the start of the innings. Consequently, the team's strategy was tweaked slightly ahead of the match against Kings XI Punjab to ensure that the openers - David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan - went after the bowling in a combined assault.

The ploy paid off handsomely after Sunrisers were asked to bat on a good batting surface in Mohali. Dhawan smashed a 48-ball 77, his second fifty in three games, and Warner cracked 51 runs off 27 balls. Dhawan described the approach to his partnership as "smart (and) aggressive".

"Usually when David attacks, I back off. In the last two games, David took his time so I attacked," Dhawan told iplt20.com. "Today, we attacked from both sides. This was a good thing and it was a very good wicket. We both wanted to make it big and that's what happened. I was feeling good about myself today and knew what plan I am going to go with.

"We both were playing smart [yet] aggressive cricket, I would say. And, that was our plan because [in the] last few games we were playing well but our run rate was [a] bit low. So, we decided today that we were going to go out there and express ourselves more. I am used to playing with David Warner for two-three seasons now, so we know each other's game and our running between the wickets is also very good."

On the relative merits and demerits of opening with two left-hand batsmen, Dhawan said it was not a factor so long as both the batsmen were good. "If they play well, they play well and it becomes hard for the bowlers," Dhawan said. "For instance, they brought an offspinner (KC Cariappa) into the attack, but we were in such good nick that we were hitting the offspinner too. Of course, if it is a left-right combination, the bowler has to contend with altering his line and length. But, if batsmen are attacking from both ends, then there is no trouble."

Sunrisers also benefited from how Kane Williamson, at No. 3, furthered the momentum created by the openers. With an unbeaten of 54 at a strike rate of 200, Williamson was the key to Sunrisers smashing 52 runs in the last five overs. Williamson reflected on how they had to briefly play the waiting game before launching into another round of attack. Once Warner was dismissed in the 10th over, Dhawan and Williamson went 17 legal deliveries without a boundary.

"There are times when you need to soak it up a little bit, but with the openers batting for about 10 overs with a run rate of over ten runs per over meant that we needed to see how many we could get and play the situation the best we could," Williamson said. "After such a good start from the openers, it was important that we do that.

"He (Dhawan) came out really aggressively as you need to do in this format; he was very dominant today and was batting so beautifully, which I suppose made my job easier when I was to come out and get myself in."

Dhawan revealed that Sunrisers had a 200-plus total in sights once they continued to score at a good clip going into the second half of the innings. "As a team goal, we always say that one of the top-four batsmen has to stay till the end. If one set batsman is playing at the end, it gives a huge advantage to the batting side, so that's what we planned and we try to implement in each game," Dhawan said.

"Once we crossed 13 or 14 overs, we knew we had to reach 200 because we had a great start and continued to be in a good position. It paid off well because in the second innings there was a bit of dew on this ground, and their batsmen were playing good cricket, especially Shaun Marsh and [Martin] Guptill, at the start. Two hundred was a good score, that's why we got the game."