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regular-article-logo Sunday, 23 June 2024

IPL: Rajasthan Royals beaten, Sunrisers Hyderabad to battle Knights for glory

Captain Cummins’ masterly use of spinners on slow surface makes big difference

Indranil Majumdar Chennai Published 25.05.24, 07:18 AM
Man of the Match Shahbaz Ahmed celebrates after dismissing Rajasthan Royals opener Yashasvi Jaiswal during Sunrisers Hyderabad’s 36-run win in Qualifier 2 at the Chepauk on Friday. The Pat Cummins-led team will meet Kolkata Knight Riders for the third time this season, for the final in Chennai on Sunday.

Man of the Match Shahbaz Ahmed celebrates after dismissing Rajasthan Royals opener Yashasvi Jaiswal during Sunrisers Hyderabad’s 36-run win in Qualifier 2 at the Chepauk on Friday. The Pat Cummins-led team will meet Kolkata Knight Riders for the third time this season, for the final in Chennai on Sunday. PTI

The familiar buzz was missing at the Chepauk on Friday evening. The music was blaring, the DJ charting out popular Tamil numbers, but the fizz wasn’t there.

The blast of energy, the cacophony of cricket, the steam — all of that was there, yet something, somewhere was conspicuous by its absence. At Chennai Super Kings’ fort, the towering presence — or absence — of Mahendra Singh Dhoni does make a huge difference.

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Not that there were too many empty seats, but the way the crowd relate to the game during CSK’s home matches was not to be found. The wild celebration and the emotional connect were never there as the two teams battled for a place in the final.

Perhaps out of custom, the fans yelled out “C-S-K, C-S-K” as Rajasthan Royals tied down the Sunrisers Hyderabad batters in knots in the first session. The DJ tried his best to engage the crowd in the carnival but the participation wasn’t vociferous.

The Royals’ flags clearly outnumbered Sunrisers’ support, but that lingering feeling of not seeing CSK in the playoffs stayed with the spectators.

Kolkata Knight Riders though couldn’t afford to relax. The players and support staff were at a team dinner when the match started but the goings-on in another part of the city kept them focused. Mentor Gautam Gambhir was in Delhi but is expected to return before their practice session on Saturday evening after casting his vote.

But that shouldn’t have stopped him from strategising plans for the title showdown. Sunrisers Hyderabad’s come-from-behind 36-run victory on Friday, which knocked out Rajasthan Royals, should serve as an eye-opener.

The Knights will be up against master tactician Pat Cummins and the contest will call for special measures. The Royals, who lost five out of their six completed games in May, learnt their lessons the hard way.

There was no dew as had been feared and the Sunrisers spinners, part-timers mostly, made full use of the conditions to stifle the chase. The dry surface afforded turn and left-arm spinners Shahbaz Ahmed (3/23) and Abhishek Sharma (2/24) swayed it Sunrisers’ way in the middle overs.

The Royals lost four wickets for 14 runs which had an effect on their required run-rate and made the 176-run target look colossal. Once Yashasvi Jaiswal, Riyan Parag and Sanju Samson departed, it was all over for the Royals.

The turn of events will serve as a lesson for KKR and set the alarm bells ringing. Mind you, Shreyas Iyer’s men had last played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium more than a month and a half ago.

The ball had been gripping and Cummins tried out Abhishek’s left-arm spin to try and exploit the conditions and it worked. It perfectly suited Shahbaz, Bengal’s spinning all-rounder, too and he responded by removing Parag and Ravichandran Ashwin in one over.

Such was the spinners’ dominance that Sunrisers bowled 55 dot balls which proved to be the difference between the teams.

Friday’s experience will make Sunrisers’ batters wiser when they return on Sunday. Even a power-hitter like Heinrich Klaasen struggled to force the pace, getting to his half-century off 33 balls. Rahul Tripathi made 37 off 15 which provided the momentum in the Powerplay overs.

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