Sunrisers freight train

From the freight train Sunrisers, a three-act play

Sunrisers Hyderabad ended up taking a 10-day break from cricket before their match against Punjab Kings. After their crushing of the Lucknow Super Giants, a seven-day break was scheduled, but after the SRH-GT washout in Hyderabad, three more days were added. And after the Kings chose to bat and amassed a healthy total of 214, it was unclear whether the aggressive SRH hitting, which was evident throughout the tournament, would be a little rusty before a major chase.

Tripathi provides the introductory narrative in the first act.

Travis Head’s first-ball duck in Arshdeep Singh’s over did not help the situation for the SRH, who required a win to remain in the running for a top-two finish. But they had added Rahul Tripathi to the eleven at the cost of a bowler. Nearly a month and a half before, Tripathi had made an appearance in SRH colours in Mullanpur against the same opponents. He started the match against Kolkata Knight Riders with 20 points, but had a lackluster performance that night, scoring just 11. Without any on-field activity, how would he react if SRH found itself in a tight spot?

After losing their star opener early on, he responded with a blistering 33 off 18 balls, staying true to SRH’s batting blueprint this season and giving them the momentum to pursue. Before facing Rishi Dhawan in the second over, Tripathi opened with a couple of fours off Arshdeep and then struck a six and two fours off consecutive deliveries. He was dismissed by Harshal Patel shortly after hitting a six off the same bowler, therefore he did not last past the fifth over. However, Head’s absence was not a major concern for SRH thanks to his 33 in a 72-run partnership with Abhishek Sharma.

“Travis has been fantastic for us this IPL, so losing his first ball gives someone else the chance to step up and take the game on, and I believe Rahul Tripathi did that well. It has been a while since he last played a game. The way that he came out and really asserted himself and formed that partnership with Abhishek was fantastic, and it helped us outpace the run-rate in terms of chasing down a pretty big score,” remarked James Franklin, the fast bowling coach for SRH. Franklin continued by saying that, in spite of Tripathi’s performance, the team lineup for the playoffs will depend on the circumstances of the match.

Tripathi was included in lieu of a bowling option, and Franklin explained, “We just changed the dynamics for today’s game.” “We’ve been selecting our teams largely based on match by match. Rather than having an additional bowler today, we had an extra hitter, and Rahul was able to use the extra batter to his advantage. He was a fantastic player. However, when the postseason approaches, the discussion over selection will resurface, and we’ll determine which team is optimal for each player and matchup.”

Act II: Abhishek’s increasing activity

It was also a novel experience for Abhishek, who had scored most of his runs (275 out of 401 runs) in collaboration with Head prior to the match against PBKS. One in which he had to take the initiative, play his normal game, and form a partnership in the middle overs to keep SRH on course. Tripathi had sprinted to 23 off 10 balls whilst Abhishek had faced just 1 ball for 1 run. But he quickly gained ground. After Tripathi was removed, he reached 32 off 12 thanks to two fours and a six from Arshdeep, two sixes from Dhawan and one from Harshal.

Next, he teamed up with Nitish Reddy, scoring 57 off 31 to keep the team moving forward in the run chase. Between them, Abhishek scored 34 runs off of 16 balls, helping SRH reach nearly 130 during the midpoint of the innings.

Regarding Abhishek’s batting this season, Franklin observed, “He’s been outstanding.” “I believe that several of us recently noticed an odd statistic: whereas in his earlier tournaments, he was primarily in the single digits when it came to his six-hitting, he is now primarily in the high 30s (with 41 being the most sixes in the IPL 2024). It’s been amazing to see him and Travis Head at the top of the order as he has completely changed his game and embraced the IPL.

“He’s got the eyes of the cricket world keenly following what those guys do when they walk out to bat, it’s been hugely exciting to watch and we got hopefully a couple of more games to go to watch the two of them bat, and particularly Abhishek, he’s been brilliant,” said Franklin.

Act Three: Klaasen offers the solution

Heinrich Klaasen arrived to the crease with the PBKS spinners in action following Abhishek’s dismissal. Shashank Singh removed Abhishek after he had hit two sixes in an over of 19 runs off Harpreet Brar. Rahul Chahar still had two overs to go, and PBKS was eager to use spin against Klaasen. With 102 runs off 48 balls at a strike rate of 212.5 in his first six matches of the season and just one wicket lost, the South African was scoring brilliantly against spin early in the season. However, in his final five innings, he was bowled three times by spin, and his strike rate dropped to 175 as a result of his recent struggles.

During the lengthy break that SRH had, Klaasen hit the nets in a bid to up his game against spin again, as he told the official broadcaster after the match, and the work he put in was there to see, as he struck maximums off Chahar and Brar by quickly going on to the backfoot and dispatching them past the fence. Reddy too dealt in maximums, which allowed SRH to get close to the target without much fuss. There were some wickets, with Reddy, Klaasen and Shahbaz Ahmed falling in quick succession, but that only meant that SRH took until the first ball of the final over to reach the target, having been in a position to finish it off a lot earlier.

“With a player of Klass’ caliber on the team, even if they don’t feel satisfied with their performance in a few games, they will quickly figure out how to improve in the small, subtle ways that will carry over into the future. I believe we’ve witnessed Heinrich’s brutality towards spinners tonight. There were a few balls there that, upon closer inspection, turn out to be fairly decent balls from the Punjab spinners. However, he is devastating when he picks up lengths quickly, and it’s amazing when he can knock a couple of balls straight to midwicket for six. And he has been doing that for a while now. “Hopefully, he’s demonstrated some positive indicators tonight, both for himself and for us as we advance into the playoffs,” Franklin stated.

After spending a lot of time off the field, Sunrisers Hyderabad immediately set to work. The victory over Punjab Kings and the Guwahati washout guaranteed a No. 2 ranking and two chances to advance to the IPL 2024 championship. Earlier in the season, the bowling coach of the Delhi Capitals, James Hopes, referred to the SRH batting squad as a freight train. And it looks like the train is headed in the right direction and has everything it needs to stay on course and avoid derailing.