Dubai: The manner in which Sunrisers Hyderabad scrapped till the last for a place in the final four of the IPL 2020 reveals a lot about the character of the team - and their leader David Warner. The Orange Army punched above their weight when it mattered the most and would look to do the same again against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Eliminator at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Ever since their IPL debut in 2013, Sunrisers have now maintained a consistent record of making the play-offs six times in eight appearances - including the title in 2016 and a runners-up spot in 2018. If they were missing in some of their quiet efficiency in the earlier matches - it was a combination of injuries to some of their key players like attacking lynchpin Bhubaneshwar Kumar, allrounder Mitchell Marsh and the trusted duo of Warner and Jonny Bairstow failing to fire together like last year.
However, the inspirational Warner struck form when it mattered most and now has 529 runs to show from 14 league games - this being the sixth year on the trot when he crossed the 500-plus mark in the IPL. The Australian, who had been reinstated as captain in place of Kane Williamson much before the season began, infused the never-say-die spirit in the team - which believed in trusting the character of it’s players rather than co-called big names.
A eprfect point of this being Wriddhiman Saha - the pocket-sized Indian Test wicketkeeper - whose introduction as an opener in place of Bairstow turned out to be a masterstroke. The right-hander, who had to spend majority of the tournament on the sidelines looked in touch right from the start - registering scores of 87, 39 and 58* in his last three innings and has been exceptional behind the stumps to play an instrumental role in fuelling play-off dreams.
The victory over a depleted Mumbai Indians in the last league fixture at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium saw Warner’s side pinch the last berth from Kolkata Knight Riders on net run-rate after both teams finished on 14 points each.
If Sunrisers’ ability to defend even modest totals had been the key behind their success-rate in the previous years, a lot of credit should go to men like the low profile Sandeep Sharma - who took on the mantle of the main bowler from injured Kumar. Not only did he complete 100 IPL wickets during the league stage, Sharma also proved his worth in striking during the powerplay over the years - having crossed Zaheer Khan’s record of 52 wickets.
The success of Saha up the order helped the team find them a regular spot for allrounder Jason Holder in the lower middle order - which has helped the team strike a better balance and solve the conundrum of filling up the four best foriegners’ slots in Warner, Williamson, Holder and the matchwinner Rashid Khan.
Surely, it won’t be an easy outing for Kohli’s men!