Yuvraj’s blitz proves too much for RCB

Sunrisers Hyderabad 207 for 4 (Yuvraj 62, Henriques 52, Chahal 1-22) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 172 (Gayle 32, Bhuvneshwar 2-27, Rashid 2-36) by 35 runs

The IPL opens new seasons with a match between the previous edition’s finalists, and this year the teams seemed to have been handed the same lines. The characters speaking those lines changed, the stage changed, but Sunrisers Hyderabad once again posted a 200-plus total and defended it successfully after an early scare. This 207 was Sunrisers’ second-highest IPL score, one behind the final last year, and despite all their power and matches in Bangalore, Royal Challengers have successfully chased 200 only once in the IPL.

Sunrisers’ captain David Warner seemed to be repeating his lines from the final but it was Yuvraj Singh’s sublime 62 off 27 that set up the 200 score after Moises Henriques provided him the springboard with 52 off 37. In response, Chris Gayle looked threatening as Royal Challengers raced away to 43 for 0 in four overs. Missing Mustafizur Rahman, Sunrisers found a new hero in Afghanistan legspinner Rashid Khan, who took the wheels of the chase off with quick legbreaks and wrong’uns, claiming two wickets on his IPL debut.

Royal Challengers turn left

Missing Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, having lost Mitchell Starc again and having let go of Chris Jordan, the selection of the runners-up was going to be interesting. They tried to emulate the champions, going for three left-arm quicks, but they got them on against a batting line-up that relies on three big left-hand batsmen. All three of Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj boast better strike rates against left-arm quicks than their overall career numbers. Despite Tymal Mills’ impressive debut, there was only one winner here. In all, the Royal Challengers left-arm quicks bowled 38 balls to the left-hand batsmen for 78 runs, including some sumptuous hitting from Yuvraj against the two IPL debutants, Mills and Aniket Choudhury.

Yuvraj and Henriques tee off

One of the under-rated players in Sunrisers’ triumph last year, Henriques batted effortlessly at No. 3 after Warner fell against the run of play. Even though Dhawan struck at a potentially damaging strike rate of 129 over 31 balls, Henriques didn’t let the momentum stall. And when he met Yuvraj in the middle, Royal Challengers had to face some carnage. Yuvraj had one of his nights where everything he hit went. The highlight of his innings was when Mills, one of the best at the slower legcutter, found him waiting for that very delivery. Yuvraj proceeded to send it sailing over midwicket for a six. Ben Cutting provided the final touches with two sixes in the last over, bowled again by Shane Watson.

Cutting, Rashid, Hooda drag Royal Challengers back

After yet another ominous start from Gayle, Cutting began the comeback for Sunrisers. He first gave Gayle what no one else had: a bouncer. Then came the offcutter, the delivery that had dismissed Gayle in the final. A wide yorker made an appearance. Despite just a five-run fifth over, Royal Challengers had had the first win. They had made Rashid bowl in the first six: in bowling 546 balls in T20Is, Rashid had bowled only one over inside the front six. Rashid, though, rose to the challenge, and bowled Mandeep Singh in trademark fashion: bowled with a straighter delivery, making it 14 of his 40 right-hand victims bowled. Now the World T20 final repeated itself. Warner went to the part-time offspinner in Deepak Hooda – remember Joe Root? – and Gayle holed out to long-off after hitting one six.

Cutting, Rashid, part II

Kedar Jadhav and Travis Head, though, kept Royal Challengers alive with a 56-run partnership in 5.1 overs. With 93 required in 8.3 overs, the asking rate was still in check, especially with Watson still in the shed. This is when Jadhav attempted an ambitious second only to find an effortless and flat direct hit from fine leg. Cutting had once again dragged Royal Challengers back. Rashid now repeated his second-favourite dismissal, the wrong’un to the left-hand batsman, as Head top-edged a slog sweep. Against the quality of Sunrisers’ attack, Watson alone was always going to be one man too few, and they fell short by 35 in the end.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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