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Sunrisers mess up routine chase as RCB record second win in a row

Did Sunrisers Hyderabad captain David Warner miss a trick by not taking first strike after winning the toss against Royal Challengers Bangalore? Batting second in Chennai is increasingly turning out to be a nightmare. On Tuesday, Kolkata Knight Riders imploded in dramatic circumstances. On Wednesday, it was SRH’s turn, fluffing what looked like a straightforward chase to go down by six runs. In pursuit of 150, they were 96/1 after 14 overs with Warner and Manish Pandey in control of proceedings. However, Warner’s exit spooked them as RCB’s unheralded left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed picked up three wickets in the 17th over as RCB recorded their second successive win.

Shahbaz does a Rahul Chahar

Despite the loss of captain Warner for a well-compiled 37-ball 54, SRH were ahead in the contest after the 16th over, with the scoreboard reading 115/2. At the crease were a well-set Manish Pandey and the irrepressible Jonny Bairstow. But batting second in Chennai is not turning out to be easy. RCB captain Virat Kohli persisted with left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed. Could he conjure magic just like Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya did for Mumbai?

Pressure does strange things to people. Bairstow miscues a slog-sweep to hand AB de Villiers a catch. On the next delivery, Pandey holes out in the deep, as Ahmed gets two in two. Abdul Samad staves off the hat-trick, but three balls later offers a simple return catch to Ahmed. Three vital strikes in the 17th over put RCB in the ascendancy. There were no heroics from all-rounders Vijay Shankar and Jason Holder as they capitulated in the 18th and 19th over respectively to leave SRH needing 20 from 9 balls. Rashid Khan, after his superlative efforts with the ball, tried his best, biffing a six and a boundary off Harshal Patel. But it was just too much of a task for SRH’s lower order. “A very big bitter pill to swallow. Obviously Maxi (Glenn Maxwell) batted well, but our bowlers did well to restrict them. Look, it was just about building a partnership… and I was quite disappointed with how we went — cross-batted shots against left-arm orthodox. It just hurts,” Warner said after the second successive loss.

Maxwell branches out

RCB would do well to thank Maxwell, their big-ticket signing for this season. The Aussie may have endured a torrid time last year with Kings XI Punjab but in the two games for his new franchise, he seems to have found his verve. Maxwell has a definite role in the middle order which seems to have liberated him to a degree. This was the reason he managed to play the way he did. Walking in at 47/2 after 6.1 overs, the 32-year-old struggled to come to terms with the Chennai track and the craft of Rashid Khan. After a sedate start in which he accrued 9 off 16 balls, he tore into Shahbaz Nadeem in the 11th over, slamming the left-arm spinner for a brace of sixes and a boundary. This was followed by another period of lull in the middle overs after which he collected 39 runs from the final three overs. His invaluable 41-ball 59 was his first half-century in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in five seasons. Maxwell’s flourish propelled RCB to 149/8, which proved to be a match-winning essay. Without him, they were dead and buried. The beauty of this knock was the manner in which he paced the innings and his judicious shot selection.

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