SRH, IPL, IPL 2018, Kane Williamson, Rashid Khan
SRH finished as table toppers with 18 points © IANS

Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) came into IPL 2018 without David Warner, a man who meant more for them than probably even MS Dhoni did for Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Warner had led SRH to a title, in 2016. He scored 848 runs that season (second-most in a season in IPL history), but came second-best, after Virat Kohli. Remember, he had clinched the Orange Cap in 2015 and 2017, and was fourth in 2014.

In other words, SRH needed a new leader on their batting chart for the first time since 2013. They also needed a man to lead the unit that was full on talent but lacking a fulcrum. And Kane Williamson emerged out of Warner’s shadow to fit both bills.

Williamson has been in the Orange Army for four years now without many people noticing. He had played 8 matches across the first two seasons. In 2017 he played 7 for his 256, at 42.67, with a strike rate of 151. This season that shot up to 735 — the third-most in a single season by anyone — at 52.50 and 144. He scored 8 fifties when nobody scored more than 6.

Shikhar Dhawan finished tenth in the overall chart, with 497 runs at 38 and 137. Then came the chasm: nobody else scored 300 or averaged 30; and if one puts a 100-run cut-off, nobody struck at above 130 either. Between them, Williamson and Dhawan scored 48% of SRH’s runs.

SRH tried to form a batting nucleus but never succeeded. Shakib provided the balance SRH needed but did well only in bursts. Alex Hales  and Manish Pandey had their moments, but that was about it. Deepak Hooda disappointed. Wriddhiman Saha looked out of sorts, and Shreevats Goswami, substituting for him, didn’t do much better either.

Carlos Brathwaite was roped in too late. Rashid Khan’s batting abilities were never used up. Perhaps they could have made better use of Mohammad Nabi to blast away at the end overs. But then, with Williamson, Shakib, and Rashid already in the XI, there was room for only one more overseas player…

One statistic deserves a mention. Yusuf Pathan played CSK thrice. He scored 45 (in 27 balls), 24 (29), and 45* (25) — 114 runs at 57 and 141. In his other matches his 146 came at 20.86 and 123. Perhaps he knows a thing or two about delivering against the big guns.

But SRH topped the league table despite that. They were beaten in the end, by one brutal hour of Shane Watson  despite two of their frontline bowlers doing wonderfully.

Vice-captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar could not do a hat-trick of the Purple Cap (he missed 5 matches), but his economy read 7.66. Rashid (21 wickets, 6.73) walked away with the limelight, especially after the Qualifier 2 against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), but Siddarth Kaul had 21 wickets too, though he went for 8.28 an over. Nobody barring Andrew Tye got more wickets than them.

But it was not only about Rashid and Kaul. Shakib rendered yeoman services with 14 wickets and an economy of 8 (to go with 239 runs at 121); Sandeep Sharma had 12 and 7.75; Billy Stanlake, 8.12 before he was ruled out; and while Basil Thampi went for runs, he did get 5 wickets in 61 balls, as did Carlos Brathwaite.

The bowling worked for them throughout the tournament. They won despite scoring 118, 132, 151, 146, and in Qualifier 2, 174. In Qualifier 1 they had CSK down to 62 for 6, 92 for 7, and 113 for 8 before failing to defend 140. Even bowling first they restricted sides to 125, 151 and 138.

And yet, they won only four times chasing. One of these was set up by Dhawan and Williamson, and in two of the others they had to chase below 140. They needed 164 in the other, against Delhi Daredevils (DD), and even there Dhawan and Williamson both got thirties.

The middle-order did underperform, but the bowlers more than made up for that. Dhawan and Williamson did well in the final and Yusuf and Brathwaite powered them to 178, a score too high when compared to what they had defended throughout the tournament.

They bowled two maidens. They even had Bhuvi (4-1-17-0) and Rashid (4-1-24-0) performing. But Watson ruined everything. The biryani, cooked and served to near-perfection, was ruined by that one final bite.