Suresh Raina & Co. arrived in Hyderabad with two home defeats on the bounce, owing to a couple of shaky batting performances on a slow, two-paced Rajkot wicket. Hyderabad then, felt like it had the potential to give Gujarat Lions an opportunity to find their winning rhythm going once again. The failure of adapting to the conditions, however, paved the way for another batting implosion and eventually their fourth defeat of the season.
The surface at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium has been a lot kinder on batsmen. However, Friday’s turn of events suggested otherwise. A constant struggle for batsmen, across both the innings, suggested that the runs were hard to come by and digging in was the only option. Aaron Finch did it well for the hosts while Shikhar Dhawan matched, and even bettered his efforts to take the Sunrisers over the line.
While Finch’s performances was commendable, Lions ended up paying a hefty price for their top-order’s inability to take their time and settle in. “Yeah I think we didn’t adjust quickly. When you look at their IPL games, few of the games played here in Hyderabad, it’s always a high-scoring game. It’s a high-scoring venue. So I think the batsmen maybe took it in their mind that ‘okay it’s another high-scoring game’ but it wasn’t,” Dwayne Bravo, the Gujarat Lions all-rounder, conceded in the post-match press conference.
The preceeding fixtures at the venue have seen scores in excess of 140 on each occasion, the last one even witnessing the team batting first amass 196. The knowledge gathered from what had already happened there seemed to be the trap the Lions fell into.
“It was a different surface, the conditions were more challenging for batting and we as batsmen, as international players, we didn’t adapt quickly enough. Instead of trying to get 175-180, we could’ve easily tried to get 135-140 and it could’ve been a winning total,” Bravo added.
In a tournament heavily dominated by batsmen, more so by the top three, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashish Nehra drew first blood by bowling successive maiden overs at the start of the innings to Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith. The jaw-dropping feat did not just turn up the pressure by several notches, but also added doubt and cluttered the minds of the batsmen. They bit the bullet, went after the bowlers and, on a wicket where the ball was stopping before reaching the batsmen, paid a hefty price. Smith slashed away from his body after playing out eight dot balls, caught. McCullum went for an almighty heave following an unsuccessful attempt to turn the early pressure around, caught. Suresh Raina got a few boundaries going and played with hard hands, caught. Just like that, an explosive top-order crumbled, giving the opposition a chance to take firm control of the game very early. Barring Finch, none showed the patience to deal with one of the most disciplined bowling attacks in the season on a tricky deck.
“It’s a learning process and definitely we have to regroup as a team and adjust to all these situations because you can’t keep playing like every game you try to get 180 and 190, that’s not going to be possible. Every condition is different and if we don’t address it as batters quickly, we’re going to find ourselves in these positions again when it’s challenging for batsmen,” said Bravo.
While batting failures in three consecutive fixtures cannot be ignored, Lions’ defeat was also down to a phenomenal bowling performance from the Sunrisers, ably led by Bhuvneshwar. Bravo reckoned there was a need to give credit where it was due and praised the Meerut-born pacer for his exploits (2-28 in 4 overs) and impact on the eventual result.
“It was very good bowling. You’ve got to give credit, where credit is due. I think the way Bhuvneshwar bowled his first over.. we all know once the condition is in his favour, it’s very difficult to play him. He’s one of the best swing bowlers in the world.
“I think Ashish backs it up very well. They bowled well to us, they bowled Test match areas. The ball was doing a bit early on so it was very difficult to score. To contain Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum, two of the world’s most dangerous players, definitely you’ve got to be doing something good.
“I think it was a very challenging wicket, but at the same time we’re all professional cricketers so we can’t give no excuses with our batting display. I think we were 20 runs short,” Bravo reckoned.
The Lions have held onto their second spot in the points table and will next travel to Kolkata to take on the Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on May 8, before heading into a five-day break. With the conditions in Kolkata also expected to put the best of batsmen under the scanner, Lions need to get their act together as soon as possible, if they intend to head into the brief break in a more comfortable position.