They were down and almost out. They had lost 6 of their first 10 matches and were languishing in the bottom half of the table. The batting was crumbling and with it SRH’s hope of making the playoffs for the 5th time in a row were fading away. It got from bad to worse as they could not chase down 126 against Kings XI in Dubai and were folded for 114 - their third-lowest total in the IPL! With 7 losses from 11 matches SRH were in the doldrums and needed some inspiration.
A batting strategy masterstroke, the timely return back to form of their skipper, David Warner and the consistency of their reliable bowling unit saw SRH lead an incredible fightback not only registering three comprehensive wins in a row to make the playoffs but also scrape past RCB in the Eliminator to give themselves a chance of making the finals for a third time in 8 seasons.
We identify three main reasons for SRH’s remarkable transformation and their fightback in the tournament.
1. OPENING WITH WRIDDHIMAN SAHA
Jonny Bairstow had registered 4 scores of below-25 in his last 5 innings. Warner was not getting the freedom to play like Warner at the top of the order - SRH’s batting woes were forcing him to play the role of the anchor and curb his natural aggressive instincts. He even pushed himself down the order to add stability to the middle order. Then came the masterstroke. Wriddhiman Saha had played only one match for SRH in the IPL - against KKR in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of the tournament - where he batted at the number 4 position. SRH decided to try something radical. They dropped Bairstow and opened with Saha against the Capitals in Dubai. And it all changed for SRH thereafter!
Saha hammered 87 off 45 deliveries and put together a 107-run stand with Warner in less than 10 overs. SRH powered to 219 for 2 and thrashed DC by 88 runs. Saha (39) was the top-scorer for SRH in the 120-run chase against RCB in Sharjah and again paired with Warner and put together an unbeaten 151-run opening -wicket stand as SRH chased down MI’s 149 with 17 balls to spare - and with it secured a place in the playoffs. Saha’s promotion as an opener also helped Warner to play his natural attacking game and brought out his best - thus, it was a double masterstroke for SRH.
2. WARNER RETURNING TO HIS BEST
David Warner wasn’t near his destructive best for the most of the IPL 2020. He had aggregated 370 runs in the first 11 matches at a strike rate of just 127.58 - much below his strike rate in IPL 2019 of 143.86. He had crossed a strike rate of 140 in only 2 of his 11 innings. With Saha partnering him at the top, Warner has produced two of his best knocks of IPL 2020 in the last 4 matches - 66 off 34 deliveries against the Capitals in Dubai and then an unbeaten 85 off just 58 deliveries in the must win match against Mumbai Indians in Sharjah. The Warner of old is back! His tournament strike rate has also increased to 135.14.
3. THE AMAZING CONSISTENCY OF SRH’s BOWLING UNIT
While MI and DC have been acclaimed as the two best bowling units in IPL 2020, been in the limelight and grabbed all the headlines for the superstars in their bowling arsenal, SRH, with not as many big-names, have done a remarkable job throughout the tournament. The SRH bowlers have consistently delivered throughout the competition as a cohesive unit and did not let SRH down when they were needed most in the last few matches.
Rashid Khan has been phenomenal throughout the season - not only is he SRH’s highest wicket-taker but the most economical bowler of the tournament! He has been their playmaker in the middle overs not only controlling the flow of runs but also picking crucial opposition wickets. Rashid saw the back of Hetmyer, Rahane and Axar Patel as he returned with magical figures of 3-7 in 4 overs against the Capitals in Dubai.
Sandeep Sharma has continued to impress with the new ball making important breakthroughs while also bowling a tight line and length not letting the batsmen get off the hook. Sharma had an economy rate of 6.75, 5 and 5.25 in three of the last four SRH wins while also picking 7 crucial wickets in these matches. He dismissed Dhawan and Pant against the Capitals, Padikkal and Kohli in successive overs in the powerplay against RCB and Rohit Sharma, Quinton De Kock and Ishan Kishan against MI - this ability to pick the very best of the opposition has defined Sandeep’s bowling in the tournament.
Jason Holder has been an invaluable addition to the SRH XI. He has picked 7 wickets at an economy rate of just 6.42 in the last three matches. Shahbaz Nadeem also produced a Player of the Match performance (2-19 in 4 overs) against MI in Sharjah while T Natarajan returned with figures of 1-11 in 4 overs against RCB in Sharjah.