Even when Sunrisers Hyderabad were making heavy weather of their chase against Gujarat Lions in Friday’s Qualifier 2 at the Ferozeshah Kotla, there was no panic in the dugout. With skipper David Warner dictating terms at the crease, Lions bowlers were not to top despite taking six wickets.
Warner single-handedly pulled the team through, complementing the bowlers who had once again done the hard work.
His unbeaten 93 is one of the best efforts in IPL 9. And the one man who would be proud is Virender Sehwag. The former India opener had a hand in the Australian opener’s transformation as a batsman for all formats, drilling into him during their time together at Delhi Dardevils that he would be a very good Test player. Warner has acknowledged that many times.
“Sehwag said, ‘in Tests all the fielders are around the bat, if the ball is there in your zone you’re still going to hit it. You’re going to have ample opportunity to score runs. You’ve always got to respect the good ball, but you’ve always got to punish the ball you always punish’,” Warner had said, recalling Viru’s words.
Warner was a lethal force in T20 from the start, but he has learned to be more patient, waiting for the loose deliveries. His 16 Test centuries averaging a shade over 50 are a testimony to the success of that approach.
Coming into IPL 9, Warner wasn’t at his best, having struggled after being slotted in the middle-order during the World T20. But restored as an opener, he quickly bounced back to repeatedly guide the team home. His unbeaten 93 and 92 against RCB showed how he follows Sehwag’s mantra.
Sehwag made sure he defended balls in his weak zone. Warner too has done that. Earlier, to get off to a rousing start, he would manufacture shots and try to improvise. But now, he too defends deliveries that could hurt him.
In both the games mentioned above, Warner kept losing partners, but didn’t change his approach. In Hyderabad against RCB, he picked his spots well. He worked the good deliveries for singles and blocked deliveries pitched on middle-stump. But as bowlers pitched it slightly short and wide, he pounced on them.
On Friday, there was no sign of tension in Warner. He hit sixes, played horizontal strokes and never missed singles or twos. Though every time he lost a partner he had to slow down, like Sehwag he knew the only way to put pressure back on the opposition was to keep hitting.
The way he controlled the innings all by himself deserved praise. SRH needed 66 in the final six overs. Warner targetted Dwayne Smith’s slow seamers. He first whacked him for a flat six and then got a boundary. Later, Naman Ojha too got a six as 19 runs were picked in that over.
“It was an amazing knock, wasn’t it, the way he controlled the innings the whole way through and then went right through and got them home. We’ve been at the receiving end of a couple of great knocks in this tournament. That one batsman AB (de Villiers) last game, and Davy tonight. We can hold our heads very high. We have played some great cricket throughout this tournament, but unfortunately we couldn’t get them world-class players out,” Lions batsman, Aaron Finch, said.
Unlike Royal Challengers Bangalore, SRH have bowled consistently and a major chunk of wickets has gone to the pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar (23), Mustafizur Rehman (16) and Barinder Sran (13). Their bowling has helped Hyderabad in a big way to enter the final.
Had Warner lost his wicket, it would have been termed a lame show under pressure. But the man who has given up alcohol to find fresh focus in his game is doing everything to find a new high.