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Home >Industry >Media >IPL: Bats did the talking, but bowlers made the difference for Sunrisers Hyderabad

New Delhi: In the end, the eight-run winning margin seemed more comfortable than it actually was. And this was largely because of the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers, as has been the case in the majority of the games involving this team in the 2016 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

At one stage on Sunday night, the eventual champs looked dead and buried, thanks to a mammoth opening stand between Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli, who in pursuit of a target of 209, had already hit up over half the runs around the 11th over. But the moment Bipul Sharma held his nerve to pouch Gayle at third man, the visitors saw a grand opening. Thirteen balls later, the Sunrisers’ left-arm paceman Barinder Sran removed Kohli. Soon after that, AB de Villiers departed.

And this was the moment the Sunrisers were waiting for, given their death bowling riches on offer. With three of the most dangerous Royal Challengers batsmen sent back by the 14th over, it was time to apply the squeeze—starring the tournament’s leading wicket-taker Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the find from Bangladesh, Mustafizur Rahman.

In a way, the final mirrored the winning formula that took the Sunrisers to it in the first place. Warner starring with the bat first-up, Shikhar Dhawan chipping in with a decent start, Yuvraj’s impetus in the middle, and finally some brute finishing by Ben Cutting (who featured in only four matches). But more than their batting, it’s the Sunrisers’ pace-bowling unit that won them the title. It might seem quite an unusual route to the title, especially in a batsman-dominant format (and tournament) and conditions but that’s what the Sunrisers brought to the popular Twenty20 tournament.

First, let’s consider the numbers. Apart from the obvious highest-wicket taker list, where Kumar was on Sunday confirmed as the winner of the ‘Purple Cap’, the Sunrisers bowling attack has finished table toppers on most bowling metrics. Kumar, with 23 wickets led the charge through the tournament, with quality support from Rahman (17 wickets) and Sran (14). That’s not all, Rahman finished his debut tournament as one of its most miserly bowlers, with an economy rate of 6.90. Kumar, who took some stick in the first two matches of the tournament, went at 7.42 runs per over, while veteran Ashish Nehra, whose tournament was interrupted by injuries, finished with an economy rate of 7.60 in the eight matches he played. Sran, the other left-armer, was on the expensive side but that didn’t cost the team much.

Not just that, the Sunrisers were also the best ‘dot-ball’ bowling side in the competition. Of the 66 overs (396 legal deliveries) he bowled in the tournament, Kumar sent off 156 dot balls — in other words, batsmen were unable to score off 39.4% of Kumar’s overs. Mustafizur, who bowled a total of 137 dot balls in the 61 overs he bowled in the IPL, has a similar rate, with nearly 37.4% of his overs resulting in a dot. In the eight matches he played for the Sunrisers, Nehra had a dot ball percentage of 46.5%.

Beyond the numbers, there’s also the other side of the story, where Warner’s captaincy came to the fore, especially in the way he handles the bowlers. Typically, two overs at the top with Kumar and Nehra (when fit), with Sran first change and Mustafizur second change, coming around the 10th over, when teams with strong foundations look to consolidate. But at times, Warner held back Rahman, opting for medium-pacer Moises Henriques, who picked up the odd wicket or two, with his change of length and pace. Or in the last few matches, he would send in all-rounder Cutting, who offered the team a similar option.

But it was at the death, when batting teams go berserk, that Warner’s options at managing the chaos (to use a Dhoni term) were an absolute gold mine. With eight, sometimes six or even four overs of the pacemen, the way the Sunrisers choked chasing teams throughout the tournament was a sight to behold. Kumar and Rahman in particular were difficult to get by, thanks to their pin-point, well-targeted yorkers and, in Rahman’s case, an almost-at-will execution of change in pace, especially his hard-to-detect slow ball, something of a calling card for the talented young Bangladeshi.

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