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Match Analysis

'I'm lost for words' - The Travishek show leaves LSG stunned

Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma brought their fear factor in the chase in a proper takedown of pace as well as spin

Deivarayan Muthu
"Oh, wow!"
This was Abhishek Sharma's reaction to his strike rate of 205.64 in IPL 2024. The rest of the world reacted similarly to the unreal demolition job led by Travis Head and Abhishek on Wednesday in Hyderabad.
They chased down 166 in a mere 58 balls. It was the highest-ever ten-over score in men's T20 cricket. Head clattered 89 not out off 30 and Abhishek 75 not out off 28. Lucknow Super Giants captain KL Rahul did not know what hit them.
Travishek (Travis and Abhishek) had clattered a world-record 125 together in the powerplay in Delhi earlier this season while batting first. Perhaps, fearing that history might repeat itself in a high-stakes fixture, with the race for the playoffs heating up, Rahul opted to take first strike and challenged Sunrisers Hyderabad to chase a target, something that has bothered them this IPL.
History, however, did repeat itself, with Travishek bringing their fear factor in a chase too. As for LSG, they've been particularly efficient at defending totals. Since their inception in 2022, they've batted first in 22 games, and have won 15. Their win-loss ratio of 2.5 is the best among all teams in the league. On Wednesday, though, they had no answer to SRH's opening salvo and their defence was breached even before they could bring in their Impact Player.
"I'm lost for words," a shell-shocked Rahul said after the match. "We watched that kind of batting on TV but this was like unreal batting...I have no words to describe how well they were hitting the ball. Everything seemed to find the middle of the bat and I guess kudos to the skill level and I'm sure all of them have worked really, really hard with their six-hitting ability and you can see that in the middle.
"We always knew that we were a lot of runs short but the way they batted even if we had gotten 250, it seemed like they would get it."
LSG had entered the game with solid plans. They gave offspinner K Gowtham his first match of the season and matched him up with the left-handed pair of Head and Abhishek in the powerplay on what appeared like a sluggish surface in the first half. But SRH's openers took the pitch out of the equation and whacked Gowtham for 29 in his first two overs.
Gowtham had aimed to take the ball away from Head from around the wicket, but the batter jumped out of his crease, didn't allow the ball to turn and launched a six into the sightscreen. Gowtham then shifted to plan B - bowl into the pitch and slide it into the body of Head - but the result was still the same, with the ball landing near the sightscreen.
Ravi Bishnoi, the wristspinner, also tried to hide the ball away from Head's swinging arc and spear it on wide lines. LSG were doing death bowling in the powerplay and SRH were doing death batting in that phase. When Bishnoi dragged a wrong 'un fractionally short and outside off, most batters would have shaped to cut it square through the off side or even open up their hips to pull it over the leg side.
But Head is not most batters. He unleashed a jaw-dropping back-foot drive over long-off - as only he can. Then, when Bishnoi went short and outside off once again, Head stayed leg-side of the ball and crunched him to the point boundary. Head is usually a pace-hitter, but he showed that he can be just as destructive against spin.
"It's something that I've been working on. [Playing] spin," Head said winning the Player-of-the-Match award. "Got a lot of spin today. It's something I've been working hard. Obviously in the next little bit, it's going to be a big part of the [cricket in the] Caribbean as well, in the World Cup. Nice that I was able to go 360 tonight and get it to some parts of the ground that I don't normally get it to."
Abhishek has always been destructive against spin. Against any variety of spin. His takedown of Rashid Khan in 2022 had reminded current SRH coach Daniel Vettori, who was an ESPNcricinfo expert at the time, of Chris Gayle no less.
In this season, Abhishek has come of age and pressed on to achieve something that even Gayle couldn't in his 13-year IPL career: score 400-plus runs at a 200-plus strike rate in a season. Head, of course, has also done that double this IPL. Travishek aside, only Andre Russell had achieved the dual feat in 2019.
"I would never think [of] going to such a tournament [IPL] and playing at such a strike rate," Abhishek said. "Thanks to the [team] management, I would say, the way they've shown faith in me and I guess it was pretty much clear for the batters and I just went there and enjoyed myself.
"I think [the success is down to] the hard work I put in before the tournament, that's showing a bit now. And special thanks to Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh] paaji, Brian [Lara], and of course my dad is my first coach. So, they put a lot of hard work on me and I'm just trying do what they've taught me and it's going really well."
So far, Head and Abhishek have contributed to nearly 41% of the runs SRH have scored this IPL. And they're looking good to add to that share, irrespective of the conditions and irrespective of whether they bat first or chase.
With two more home games coming up, SRH are well-placed to make the playoffs. Good luck to whoever comes up against them in knockouts. Because however hard you try, Travishek can make you feel helpless.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo