After beginning the season with some great performances that led to three consecutive wins, the Sunrisers Hyderabad have now lost two games on the bounce and fast bowler Sandeep Sharma believes that the conditions in Mohali had a role to play in their defeat against the Kings XI Punjab.
Defending a score of 150, Hyderabad were outdone by a century partnership for the second wicket by KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, both of whom scored half-centuries.
"It had rained this morning, so the wicket had a bit of moisture, it was a bit sticky," Sandeep said in the post-match press conference. "Batting was tough because of that. We thought we would revise the total and batted accordingly. But in the end, dew was a big factor. There was a lot of dew and the entire ground was wet, the ball was getting wet. Due to this batting became easier in the second half than the first half."
According to Sandeep it was the dew that did not particularly help him and his side’s bowlers. Rashid Khan continued to trouble the batsmen and gave away only 20 runs from his quota of overs, while Mohammad Nabi had an outing to forget.
"There are two swing bowlers in our team - Bhuvneshwar and me - and our plan was to use the swing with the new ball to try and pick up wickets," Sandeep said. "But the dew became a factor in the latter half and the new ball became wet and heavy, and stopped aiding swing. As the match progressed we tried to stay in the game, tried to pick up wickets but at the end of the day KL (Rahul) played a very good innings and won them the game.
"The pressure is on the bowlers to defend when there are low totals. Our bowling attack is very experienced, we have played a lot of matches - international or in the Indian T20 League. So they know how to handle the pressure - be it Nabi, Rashid, Bhuvneshwar, Siddarth or myself. Sometimes the bowling flops and sometimes the batting."
For Hyderabad, one of the main worries has been the middle order so far and yet again it was the cause for a low score even though David Warner scored a 62-ball-70. Deepak Hooda, who has been below par this season as well, though, hit two fours and a six in his three-ball cameo to provide a late flourish. Sandeep, however, defended the batsmen and said they will come good in due course of time.
"Not many (of the middle order batsmen) got the chance in the first few matches because they (Warner and Bairstow) were batting most of the time and registered three hundred-run partnerships.
"The middle order didn't play a big role against KXIP as Warner batted through. They haven’t yet had a role to play. It was only in the previous game when the middle order collapsed. So you can't form opinions based on one game or be too concerned with it. We have plenty of talented batsmen in our middle order who are also experienced - like Yusuf Pathan, Nabi, and talented batsmen like Hooda and Manish Pandey. I have the belief that they'll perform well going forward in the tournament. There are plenty of matches left, the tournament is not even halfway done."
The Sunrisers, currently fourth on the table, have a five-day break before they play their next two games at home and will look to use this break to regroup and iron out their flaws.
"As a group we need to back ourselves," Sandeep added. "The players whose performance wasn't up to the mark, to back them and win the match. We weren't able to do that in the last two matches but obviously our focus will be on that. We have a break of five days, we'll try to rectify our mistakes and hopefully come back stronger in the next game."
One of the most important factors that helped the KXIP eventually come away with the win was keeping the destructive David Warner quiet after he lost his opening partner Jonny Bairstow. Warner uncharacteristically hit only six fours and one six during his knock.
Explaining the plan against the openers, KXIP pacer Ankit Rajpoot said, "We were keen on capitalising on their weak points as all teams would do against the opposition batsmen. I did the same against them. I did not give David Warner a lot of room to play shots, especially in his scoring areas. We ensured that we had blocked their runs. That was my plan."
Rajpoot, who had been away from the side for five games before this, finished with figures of 4-0-21-0.
"The ground and the wicket was a little helpful. As I can swing the ball, I was given the responsibility up front with confidence instilled in me that I can bowl well here. If I could have taken wickets, it would have been much better for me. There was a specific plan, considering that the other wickets that we played on were either flat or slow pitches, wherein it wasn't possibly as helpful. Here, on the other hand, we got a green track and hence I got my opportunity," Rajpoot said.