As IPL 2020 heads closer to the playoff stage, the battle for the top 4 spots is getting more and more heated. While Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore are fairly comfortably placed atop the leaderboard, there is fierce competition underway between Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals for the fourth spot in the knockouts.
Thursday night’s clash between SRH and RR in Dubai, thus was a significant one. Winning the toss, Sunrisers elected to field first with Jason Holder replacing an injured Kane Williamson.
Rajasthan made a poor start, managing just 9 runs in the first two overs.
Robin Uthappa and Ben Stokes looked to up the pace as Uthappa smacked Sandeep Sharma for a four and a six before Stokes took back to back boundaries off Holder.
However a brilliant run out by Holder brought an end to Uthappa’s innings of 19 off 13 balls in the 4th over. Rajasthan 30/1.
Sanju Samson walked in and began showing his class, finding the boundary regularly.
He looked set for a big innings on the night. However, right after he had smacked Holder for a six, the bowler hit back with an offcutter that cleaned up his stumps. Samson fell for 36 off 26 balls - Rajasthan 86/2 after 11.4 overs.
The next over saw Rashid Khan send Stokes back for 30 off 32 balls and from there on Rajasthan never really got the momentum going.
Jos Buttler failed to produce any heroics on the night, falling to Vijay Shankar for 9 off 12 balls.
Holder got both Steve Smith (19 off 15 balls) and Riyan Parag (20 off 12) in the same over with Rajasthan at 135/6 in 18.2 overs.
This was Holder’s first T20 three-wicket haul since 2015.
A six and four by Jofra Archer in the 20th over pushed Rajasthan past 150 as they made 154/6 - RR managing just 86 off the last 11 overs.
Despite the modest total, Rajasthan made a good start to their bowling innings.
Archer sent back both David Warner and Jonny Bairstow before the third over had finished.
However, those were the only two wickets Sunrisers lost.
Hyderabad needed someone to fire, especially in the absence of Williamson and Manish Pandey stepped up to the task.
Along with Vijay Shankar, Pandey took Hyderabad to 58/2 at the end of the powerplay and by the end of the 9th over, Pandey had struck a half-century of just 29 balls.
Shankar played a much more measured innings at the other end but formed the perfect partnership with the big-hitting Pandey to keep the runs coming.
Pandey’s 83* off 47 balls and Shankar’s 52* off 51 balls took Hyderabad to a comfortable 8-wicket win with 11 balls to spare.
The win pushed Hyderabad to fifth place in the table with 8 points. They are currently tied on points with Rajasthan and Punjab, with the latter having played 11 matches to the others’ 10.