A David Warner misfield at long-on, followed by a slip as he tried to retrieve the ball that allowed a second. That’s how the game ended in Mohali, with Kings XI Punjab chasing down 151 with six wickets and a ball to spare. That slip was down to the dew, which played a big role in the match.
Sunrisers Hyderabad’s stand-in captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar agreed about the dew, saying after the game: “The way we bowled, I’m really happy given the dew.” But, he admitted, he was also a little disappointed to lose after getting so close.
That’s when Agarwal swatted one to deep midwicket, and just like that the pressure was on. “Well, somebody had to take a chance, it was 18 balls 19 (needed) and you know we were thinking if we can get two big hits, we should be through,” Agarwal told host broadcaster Star Sports. “But I guess we didn’t pull it off.”
Two more quick wickets fell, and by the start of the 20th, Kings XI needed 11, with Sam Curran facing up to the experienced Mohammad Nabi for his first ball. Rahul, from the other end, was hoping Curran did not try anything too rash, given the ball was “skidding through” due to the dew.
“It was simple, he had to look for the boundaries. But I did tell him that maybe hitting sixes was a bit difficult because the ball kept skidding through and you couldn’t get elevation,” Rahul said. “So I said look to hit the pockets, maybe get fours because we’re not too far behind, we don’t need 16 or 17 runs, we just need 11. He came out, still tried to hit a six, luckily for us went in the gap, scored a few twos and (I) could strike that boundary at the end.”
Game over, but some would argue it was sealed much earlier, in the first 10 overs of the match. R Ashwin inserted Sunrisers with the imminent dew at the front of his mind, and they could manage just 50 runs in the first half of their innings. Much of that was down to mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman removing the in-form Jonny Bairstow in his first over, the second of the innings.
The dew, and Bairstow’s issues against spin, made the decision to bowl Mujeeb early an easy one, Ashwin said. “It was always in our plans, because Mujeeb knows Mohali really well. Sometimes, Mohali, as a spinner, (it feels) lopsided. Because you don’t get enough out of the pitch, there’s a lot of dew, the outfield’s brilliant, the pitch is great (to bat on)… So as a spinner you need to know what sort of lengths and what sort of speeds you should be bowling at.
“It’s very important with the dew that you do use the spinner with the new ball, and someone like Mujeeb has done it all through is career, he’s just bowled with the new ball for Afghanistan all his life. He’s very comfortable bowling with the new ball, so I thought, especially because of Jonny Bairstow up there, if he can get the ball to come in or bowl the googly it was a good match-up.”
Warner batted through the innings at the other end, even if he wasn’t at his most explosive, and Sunrisers finished with 150 – “20 runs short because there was dew,” according to Bhuvneshwar.
Rahul and Agarwal then took charge of the chase. Rahul made a third half-century in four innings – a timely run of form, given India’s World Cup squad announcement is a week away. Agarwal’s was his second fifty of the tournament, and his second sizeable stand with Rahul after 64 against Mumbai Indians.
Rahul said Agarwal’s approach helped him settle in. “Mayank and I (both play for Karnataka in domestic cricket) have grown up playing together, so we have that understanding and we enjoy playing with each other.
“The way Mayank came out… throughout the six games he’s come out with a very positive attitude, even against Mumbai he did the same thing. So it gives me a little bit of time.”
However, on the downside for Kings XI, Agarwal picked up a niggle along the way. Rahul said: “Need to bring this up, he hurt his finger and I don’t know the extent of the injury but he came out and his top hand wasn’t, you know… he was in pain, so to play an innings like that was incredible.”