Matches (13)
T20 World Cup (3)
SL vs WI [W] (1)
WI Academy in IRE (1)
T20 Blast (8)

Kane Williamson injury exposes gaping hole in Sunrisers Hyderabad middle order

David Warner has backed his young batsmen to come good, despite a collapse against RCB in their IPL 2020 opener

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
You are 89 for 1 and 121 for 2 chasing 164 when the opposition feels there is so much dew the ball feels like a cake of soap. You find a way to lose from there. Sunrisers Hyderabad will not only be gutted about the two points lost against Royal Challengers Bangalore, but the implications of it for the rest of the IPL 2020 season.
They came into the season with a suspect middle order to address, which they would have been tempted to sacrifice a bowling allrounder for Kane Williamson. However, a quad injury to Williamson during training took that out of their hand. His replacement, Mitchell Marsh, injured his ankle into his first over of bowling, an injury that looked bad enough to cast a shadow over the rest of his IPL. There is no word on when Williamson will be available for selection, but what happened in their chase might leave Sunrisers desperate for his calm and his experience, especially given Dubai and Abu Dhabi won't be offering up too many 200 pitches.
The Sunrisers captain was left looking for answers, but he was more disappointed with the senior batsmen who were in rather than the rookie middle order. Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey both fell trying to hit Yuzvendra Chahal for a six. Bairstow did so in Chahal's last over, giving the Royal Challengers a window of opportunity, which became a big gaping hole in no time at all.
"I think everyone knows that," David Warner told Star, the host broadcaster, when asked if the seniors should have played Chahal more smartly. "If they could go back and play that back again, I think they'll just do that. At the end of the day, there are talking points but I think the guys know exactly what they have to do in the next game."
At the post-match press conference, Warner sought to give his inexperienced middle order of Priyam Garg, Vijay Shankar and Abhishek Sharma a vote of confidence. "We wouldn't have put them in the middle order if we didn't feel they weren't good enough," Warner said. "If there is anyone who wants to criticise the middle-order batting, [they have got to remember] it is something I haven't seen before. Three bizarre dismissals [a ramp into the helmet onto the stumps and a run-out after two batsmen collided mid-pitch]."
Warner also made it clear he was not going to put undue pressure on the youngsters. "I have encouraged them to keep playing their way, and not think too much about the scenario or the situation," Warner said. "We got to really rely on our senior players to guide them out in the middle. If it so happens to be two youngsters out there, my message is just to play their natural game. At the end of the day, that is the only way you can learn. It can be difficult at times. You know it is pressure environment, 100 million people watching this. Just got to keep it calm, keep it simple for them."
It will be a matter of interest how Sunrisers deal with this middle-order issue in the rest of the tournament. Possible reinforcements are spinners Mohammad Nabi and Fabian Allen. While Allen has hit a six every 10 balls in T20 cricket, Nabi carries the steady head they might need. If and when Williamson is available, he will be an option too, with Garg possibly making way for an Indian allrounder, like Abdul Samad. Another route is for one of the top three to drop down in the middle order, but that will have to be weighed against what they lose in the early overs by doing so.
Whatever might be the case, on the evidence of Sunrisers' opening match, no team will ever consider themselves out of the game against them.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo