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Match Analysis

Innate confidence and freedom help Priyam Garg and Abhishek Sharma thrive

Their partnership was an extension of their off-field camaraderie and Warner couldn't be more delighted for the 'kids'

Saurabh Somani
Priyam Garg and Abhishek Sharma put together a 77-run partnership, Chennai Super Kings v Sunrisers Hyderabad, IPL 2020, Dubai, October 2, 2020

Abhishek Sharma counter-attacked brilliantly  •  BCCI

Bahut ganda feel ho raha tha (I'm feeling terrible) - Priyam Garg to Abhishek Sharma.
It was Garg's first ball in the middle. He was at the non-striker's end. He had said 'yes' and then 'no' to a call for a run from Kane Williamson. The 'yes' came too early. The 'no' was too late. And Williamson, the best batsman in Sunrisers Hyderabad's previous game, was run-out. The Chennai Super Kings don't normally let a team they have down at 69 for 4 in 11 overs mount a comeback. The Sunrisers middle order had Garg (19), Sharma (20) and Abdul Samad (18) remaining, collectively the same age as head coach Trevor Bayliss.
Age can be a factor in thinking getting clouded in the middle after running out a modern-day great. Age is relative.
Garg may by 19, but he has been facing Bhuvneshwar Kumar's bowling since he was 15, and even then he wasn't afraid to stand yards outside his crease to negate the swing. Sharma, who has just joined Garg in the middle, has spent part of the lockdown training with Yuvraj Singh, alongside other bright Punjab prospects.
"He told me, 'Well played mate, don't worry.'"
Garg on what Williamson told him mid-innings
So they bat with the legs of teenagers, but with the nous of veterans. The talent had always been there. It doesn't matter that neither has faced a ball, that all the Sunrisers' heavyweights are out, and that the score is sluggish 69 for 4 in 11 overs. It doesn't even matter that the first two overs they bat bring only eight runs. They're not going into panic mode and hitting out: they're going to get into a rhythm first. David Warner has told them: "Go out there and bat. Don't worry about the scoreboard. Bat the 20 overs, get as many runs as you can. If you get out, you get out. It's a game of cricket at the end of the day."
The runs, when they inevitably come, are some of the most pleasing on the eyes. Sharma has a languid cover drive that oozes confidence because it's been unfurled against Dwayne Bravo, the master of changes of pace and variations. Garg rocks a front-foot pull from the Rohit Sharma manual that pings into the boundary at the speed of sound. Sharma makes a baseball slug over midwicket look elegant. Garg can access areas behind square on either side while playing with a technique that makes it seem he's still hitting in the 'v'.
With Sharma at least, there is some history. On IPL debut two seasons back, he had hit 46* off 19 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Last season in the domestic Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he carted a Jharkhand attack that had Varun Aaron and Shahbaz Nadeem for 72 off 44 opening the batting. Six days later he smashed Mumbai's vaunted bowlers for 47 off 29. Garg has not given a hint of his T20 abilities to this level, but he does come with a first-class average of 66.69 across two seasons and as the most recent India Under-19 captain.
It's not like the Super Kings hadn't planned for them. "We talked about them," Stephen Fleming, the coach says. "All the bowlers had the information and footage on them and quite a lot of detail was done on them. They played well!
"That's youth for you, come out and attack," Fleming shrugs.
That attack yields 77 runs in seven overs, proving to be the difference between victory and defeat with the winning margin seven runs.


Main Jadeja bhai ko thoda dekhta hoon (I'll have a go against Jadeja bhai) - Sharma to Garg.
Speaking after the game, Sharma is candid about which bowler he had planned to target. He's good enough to pull it off too, hitting a four and a six in the 14th over that marks an inflexion point in the innings. Before that, the Sunrisers had been meandering. ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster tool projected their final total to be 139 when they were 77 for 4 in 13 overs. A good way of judging how well Garg and Sharma did is to see that the Sunrisers ended up 25 runs above what their expected trend showed at nearly two thirds of the way through.
"I thought at first I can take some time, three or four balls… but that turned into seven-eight balls," Sharma tells Garg on "So I knew that I have to hit a big shot soon. You were with batting with me and you were looking good, so I thought I shouldn't let the scoring be blocked, the runs should keep coming."
Sharma went from 6 off 10 balls to 31 off 25. Garg's own opening of the floodgates was even more spectacular, with Sam Curran taken for 22 runs in the 17th over, and a maiden IPL half-century raised soon after off 23 balls - already fantastic but even more so when you factor that he was on 8 off 8 at the start of his innings.


First of all, I had no pressure when you came in to bat because we both know each others' styles well - Garg to Sharma.
The Garg and Sharma partnership was an extension of their off-field camaraderie. They've both played plenty of age-group cricket together. They have been part of the same Under-19 squads too. Sharma went for the 2018 World Cup. Garg had been in the frame but missed out, only to captain the 2020 World Cup squad.
Garg's Instagram feed has a recent photo with Sharma, after the Sunrisers' camp has got underway in the UAE, that has the caption "bestfriendsforever".
It's this friendship that allows a smiling Sharma to ask Garg after the game "how he felt at running Kane out". It is this bond that lets a chuckling Garg to tell Sharma, "You played seven eight balls and weren't getting runs. What did you think then?"
At the mid-innings break, Sharma tells Star Sports that "me and Garg we've been playing together for so long so it was quite easy for us to play this innings."
It's almost like they have rehearsed that line because when he's getting his man of the match award, Garg says, "I've been playing with Abhishek since childhood, so we know each others' strengths. I also know what he can do, that's why we took it deep, and then we got some good hits."


I don't know where these questions keep coming from - David Warner, after being asked - again - about the Sunrisers inexperience in the middle order at the press conference.
Warner has seen what the young brigade the Sunrisers have invested in are capable of. And it's not like the team has Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and AB de Villiers on the bench but they're choosing to play Garg, Sharma and Samad.
"We had no choice. Who else are we going to bat at the back end?" Warner asks rhetorically.
It's not a question whose answer troubles Warner though, and he says it hasn't troubled him since the start of the tournament.
"I've said this before in my press conferences, that I've told these young kids to go out there and play the way they want to play, play with freedom. Take the scoreboard out of the equation, and back yourselves," Warner says. "Look I think if you give youngsters almost 11 overs to bat, you know they're going to get some time out in the middle.
"The hardest thing is if you're playing a tournament where you're only getting three or four overs to have a hit. It's very difficult to get any momentum. It's going to be a difficult to find the boundaries when you're not getting too much game exposure.
"Hopefully this year shows these kids what they're capable of. They went out there and executed their skill, they got some time in the middle, now we know what they're capable of."
Not just the Sunrisers, all other teams will have taken note of what that rookie middle order is capable of. As for Garg, the run-out of Williamson had a happy ending after all, once he went back to the dugout. "He told me, 'Well played mate, don't worry.'"

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo