Mohali: Sunrisers Hyderabad achieved their first objective on Wednesday (September 18) night, securing their spot in the main draw of the Champions League with a lop-sided seven-wicket victory over Faisalabad Wolves at the PCA Stadium.
The result meant Otago Volts, who had overwhelmed Kandurata Maroons earlier in the day, also won through to the tournament proper, and eliminated Faisabalad and Kandurata, rendering Friday's final set of matches largely inconsequential. (Match in pics)
This Hyderabad victory - the fourth in as many games in this competition for the side chasing - was set up entirely by the brilliance of their bowling unit in general, and Amit Mishra in particular. Mishra, who only bowled one over in the previous game against Kandurata, was practically unplayable during an unchanged four-over spell of 1 for 13 during which he sent down the first maiden of the competition, while Dale Steyn atoned for an ordinary day out on Tuesday with a wonderful exhibition of swing and control both with the new ball and at the death. (Also read: Dhawan had faith in Mishra's abilities)
For the second time in as many days, Misbah-ul-Haq was left to shore up the Faisalabad innings. Once again, the captain did not disappoint, making a typically flamboyant unbeaten 56, but once again, he was fighting a losing battle as the rest of the batsmen dropped away like autumn leaves.
Put in, Faisalabad managed a measly 127 for 5, easily the lowest total of the competition. Hyderabad rattled along through their in-form opening tandem of Shikhar Dhawan and Parthiv Patel, who followed up their spectacular alliance of 121 against Kandurata with a more measured 68 off 54 deliveries. The pair expertly negated the potential threat of Saeed Ajmal much like they had neutralised Ajantha Mendis previously, playing the lead role in Hyderabad reaching 131 for 3 with 15 deliveries to spare.
Dhawan, caressing the ball through the covers like a dream, was again on top of his game, bringing up his second successive fifty with the ease of a school bully snatching candies from his classmates. After Patel's departure, he put on 44 for the second wicket with JP Duminy, who himself logged in some game time and set himself up nicely for the real deal.
If the night was mainly about Dhawan, the late evening was primarily the Mishra show. As if to prove a point, Mishra was a picture of consistency, guile and control when he was brought on in the eighth over, a move that proved decisive in the final equation. Ammar Mahmood and Ali Waqas, the Faisalabad openers, had looked completely out of their depth at the very start against Steyn and Ishant Sharma before gradually finding their feet, and seemed on course to lay a solid platform by realising 48 at the end of the seventh over.
Mishra scuttled their designs of a more substantial association with his second delivery by forcing Waqas to slog across the line to deep midwicket, and sent down his favoured googly with some regularity to tie the batsmen up in knots. Karan Sharma, his fellow leggie who hadn't got a bowl on Tuesday, then struck in the next over, winkling out Asif Ali as the scoreboard came to a near standstill.
Mahmood suddenly lost his fluency, forcing Misbah to embrace the twin roles of consolidation and run-scoring. It's a role that comes easily to Misbah, especially in Faisalabad colours - in his last seven innings, he has amassed 308 runs at over 100 - but there was only that much the captain could do, especially as very little support was forthcoming.
Sensing an opportunity, Dhawan marshalled his bowling adroitly, keeping Karan out of the attack after one towering six from Misbah. In all, Misbah slammed five sixes, four of them over long-on, but his hands were somewhat tied because he could barely afford to take a risk.
Mishra out of the way, there still was no respite for Faisalabad as Hyderabad bowled brilliantly at the death. Steyn conceded just 12 in his last two overs and only 35 came in the last five. There was no acceleration worth the name, Faisalabad grateful for whatever Misbah's scything willow could throw their way.
While Otago will join Mumbai Indians, Highveld Lions, Perth Scorchers and Rajasthan Royals in Group A, Hyderabad will stay put in Mohali for their first Group B match against Trinidad & Tobago on September 24. The other teams in the group are Chennai Super Kings, Titans and Brisbane Heat.