Rashid Khan
Sunrisers Hyderabad leg-spinner Rashid Khan celebrates after taking the wicket of Delhi Capitals batsman Rishabh Pant in the Indian Premier League 2020 match, at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, on September 29, 2020. Image Credit: PTI/Sportzpics for BCCI

A first win for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2020. That would breathe life into their campaign in the UAE. The victory over the Delhi Capitals came on the back of a gritty performance in Abu Dhabi. All their fight qualities were on display in the disciplined batting and splendid bowling.

The Sunrisers Hyderabad did their homework very well. The losses in the first two games hurt them, and they approached Tuesday’s game with a rejigged playing XI. The induction of Kane Williamson (41 off 26) brought stability to the middle-order, and he also stepped up the scoring in the slog overs.

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It was a classic limited-overs approach, although T20 cricket has often exploded long-held theories. The start was slow (one boundary in five overs), but it helped preserve wickets. That was crucial on a slow pitch. Captain David Warner (45 off 33) and Jonny Bairstow (53 off 48) curbed their attacking instincts in the face of some good Delhi bowling from Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. Then there was the final flourish where Williamson played a key role.

A total of 162 is not imposing, but it’s good enough if you can defend well. And defending well means early wickets. That’s precisely what Bhuvaneshwar Kumar did. The India pacer sent back opener Prithvi Shaw and after that Delhi struggled to gain some momentum on a slowing pitch.

Warner’s trump card

Then Warner played his trump card, Rashid Khan. The Afghan leg-spinner’s three telling strikes deflated Delhi, and left-arm seamer Natarajan’s accurate yorkers offered no escape. When Rishabh Pant fell in a bid to shake off the shackles, Delhi’s hopes evaporated.

The 15-run victory helped Hyderabad pick up their first points, and more significantly infused confidence in the team. They may not be a very balanced side, but they have the ability to bring down the more fancied teams. This was just one example.

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Delhi will lick their wounds and return with more intent. They have a young team brimming with talent. But on Tuesday, they were outplayed by a team who lifted their game by several notches. And that will worry Delhi because it showed they could be fragile when the going gets tough. That’s not the stuff of champions.

If Delhi have to win the elusive title, they need to up their game. Especially when the chips are down.