Big games and pressure situations often bring out the best in great players. David Warner did the same in the second qualifier of IPL on Friday. It was a do-or-die game for both Sunrisers Hyderabad and Gujarat Lions, and both teams fought tooth and nail. At one stage, it seemed like Gujarat had inched ahead, having consumed a number of big wickets quickly in the chase. Poor shot selection by Hyderabad batsmen left Warner enraged, and that wasn't a good sign, as the chasing side needed a calm head under pressure. Luckily for Hyderabad, Warner managed to regain his composure just in time, and played an amazing knock that took Hyderabad to the final.
The most impressive aspect of Warner's innings on the day was that he absorbed all the pressure in a big chase, and stayed on till the end, leading the side past the finish line. He did not always go for the big shots, but picked his bowlers and strokes smartly, in the process ensuring that the run-rate was brought under control every time it seemed like it was spiralling out. While Warner's knock was crucial, the victory might not have been achieved without a crucial cameo from Bipul Sharma. His big-hitting prowess came to the fore again, and his three sixes not only took the pressure off Warner, but also shifted the momentum Hyderabad's way.
Earlier, Hyderabad's bowlers also did well to restrict the Lions to under 170 in spite of losing their main bowler Mustafizur Rahman in the run up to the match. Ashish Nehra was already out a few games back, so Hyderabad's bowling was significantly weaker. But, Trent Boult, brought in for Rahman, immediately displayed his value to the team. He picked up the big scalp of opposition skipper Suresh Raina, who fell cheaply again. Bhuvneshwar Kumar yet again brought all his experience into play, and finished with excellent figures of 2 for 27. The others also chipped in with a wicket or two as Hyderabad kept things tight.
As for Lions, it was a case of so near yet so far for the second time in a row. Against Bangalore, they had the chasing side on the mat quite literally, but couldn't get past the sensational AB de Villiers. History repeated itself on Friday, but not for the good of Lions as this time Warner came between them and victory. Shivil Kaushik continued his impressive run for Lions with 2 for 22, and Dwayne Bravo also chipped in with two scalps. But, it were the experienced pacers who let Lions down. Praveen Kumar failed to keep things tight, and Dhawal Kulkarni was off colour on the wrong day.
Earlier, with the bat as well, the Lions put up an average effort. The opening combination was changed, but their struggles continued. Brendon McCullum got a start, but never looked fluent during his stay at the crease. Raina's early loss again hurt the team badly. In fact, they never got into any sort of momentum until Aaron Finch walked in. His half-century took Lions to a respectable score, helped by a good cameo from Bravo. Like Lions, Hyderabad also had a poor start, with Shikhar Dhawan running himself out in silly fashion. But, Warner was like a wall on the day.
--By A Cricket Analyst