BENGALURU: Although Sunday’s Indian Premier League final was built up as a battle between the Sunrisers Hyderabad pacers and the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsmen, the latter clearly held the edge.
While RCB were playing on home turf, skipper Virat Kohli’s sensational record while chasing a target meant Bhuvneshwar Kumar and his fellow pacemen faced a formidable challenge even after skipper David Warner elected to bat and led the innings with another half-century.
In the end, it panned out the way coach Tom Moody and Warner had hoped it would.
It has been the case for the SRH bowling unit for most of this season.
On Sunday, Sunrisers looked out of the contest with openers Chris Gayle and Kohli going hammer and tongs. The duo made the target of 209 appear small.
The batsmen were restoring order and dominating, as has been the norm in Twenty20s. But it wasn’t just one or two bowlers who stepped up, but a collective effort got the job done.
Pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in outstanding form this season, kept his nerve as the leader of the pack in the absence of the injured Ashish Nehra even as Gayle and Kohli were putting on an aggressive show.
Bhuvneshwar finished with an economy of just 6.25. It is the sort of bowling that made the swing bowler the top wicket-taker of the tournament and a feared prospect for batsmen throughout this season. After being frustrated for most of last year due to ankle injury, Bhuvneshwar took his time to regain his best. While he didn’t take a wicket in the final, he built pressure to allow Mustafizur Rahman, Ben Cutting and Barinder Sran to all take wickets and choke the famed RCB batting.
THE POTENT PACERS
Led by Bhuvneshwar, the bowling unit has been consistent and potent through the season. With Warner providing the batting ammunition, Bhuvneshwar and Mustafizur Rahman, and Nehra till his injury, complemented with the ball.
While Bhuvi worked his way with the new ball and old, claiming the most wickets (23), Mustafizur kept things tight in the death overs to finish with an economy rate of just 6.90.
The dominance of the bowlers began under the guidance of Nehra, who had led India’s attack in the World Twenty20.
Bhuvneshwar carried on from where Nehra had left off and never slipped in the business end of the tournament.
The 20-year-old Mustafizur was a revelation, and the youngster was unfazed by the attention and a busy schedule. Maintaining his form from 2015, his leg-cutter and slower ball were as effective as they were when India had toured Bangladesh last year. Sran and Cutting made for an all-round potent attack.
At the heart of Sunrisers’ success were dot balls. Sunrisers bowlers accounted for the most dot balls in the competition. Of the 396 balls he bowled, Bhuvi delivered 156 dot balls. Mustafizur bowled 137 dot deliveries. Nehra too had finished with an economy of just 7.65 from the eight matches he played.
The ninth edition of the IPL was unique in that sense. Bowlers from most teams showed gumption, not wilting under pressure from bighitting batsmen. And Sunrisers were at the helm of this change.
Warner used the bowling talent at his disposal perfectly, and their best show came when it mattered most, in the final. With RCB galloping at 114 from 10 overs, the bowlers stepped it up to grab victory from the brink.