The bowlers were, as always, brilliant for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, showing the art of defending a score in T20 cricket is not quite dead yet in their brilliant performance against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL 2016 Eliminator on Wednesday. But, it was Yuvraj Singh who played a vital innings for SRH, which allowed those impeccable bowlers of his team an opportunity to defend a score.
Had it not been for the left-hander's 44 from 30 balls (8x4, 1x6), SRH might have been unable to post a total, which would have caused enough concern the KKR batsmen. While KKR eventually ended up only managing 140 in their 20 overs, the real reason behind that struggle was the 160+ score that SRH eventually posted.
Initially, it looked like the Sunrisers were 15-20 runs short of where they needed to be, and even the KKR captain Gautam Gambhir felt it was a chaseable total, but then getting past that 160-mark does have a psychological impact, that oh-we-have-a-makeable-but-serious-score-to-chase-here-boys feeling, which in turn, just on the back of the batsmen's minds, puts the pressure on when you come in to the chase.
While a couple of lusty blows from Bipul Sharma made a big difference in the end, it was Yuvraj Singh who really pushed SRH towards that eventual 162-run total, with his partnership of 49 from six overs with Deepak Hooda proving to be quite vital. Yuvraj did not just play a really nice innings of 44, he also made sure the batsman at the other end was aware of the situation and batted accordingly.
Because after losing two wickets in two balls – of Moises Henriques and David Warner – SRH could have just crumbled like they have so often in the past – and did in their last match against KKR. Yuvraj, though, brought all his experience into play, had a word or two with the don't-know-what-to-expect Hooda to make sure the KKR spinners would not run away with the game.
"He (Yuvraj) told me that we will have to take the game as far as we can," Hooda told IPL's official website. "We will take fewer risks initially in the first two-three overs and after that once we are set, then we will be able to hit the ball better. He handled me really well and guided me.
"Yuvi paa helps me a lot with my cricket; he keeps telling me different things in the nets as well."
Hooda ended up scoring just 21 (13b, 2x6), but those 21 runs made a big difference in the end. Yuvraj brings to the table a lot more than just his batting skills. Apart from his leadership ability, the 34-year-old showed those weary knees are still not quite done yet, by instigating a brilliant run out, that of Colin Munro with a direct hit, with Gambhir stating that dismissal was the turning point of the game.
That might be exaggerating a little, but there is little doubt that the run out was vital, and while Gambhir could have easily taken KKR to victory had he stayed at the crease for a longer while and allowed the rest of the batsmen to bat around him, Yuvraj's magic in the field did pile the pressure on, pressure which even Gambhir succumbed to when he played a poor shot, which led to his dismissal.
It is performances – and Yuvraj did not even get to bowl -- like these that really make the difference in a T20 game. SRH now have another do-or-die match to come – the Qualifier 2 against the Gujarat Lions – on Friday, and the team will hope Yuvraj stays in the zone for that game, because an in-form Yuvraj could prove to be the difference between a place in the final – and a match with his former team RCB -- and an exit from IPL 2016.