An hour and a quarter before the game was to start, Chris Gayle sauntered out of the dressing room, skipped down the tunnel and appeared on the field for the first time. By then, more than 25,000 fans had already gathered at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad, and they welcomed Gayle with a roar that threatened to bring the newly-constructed canopies at the North and South ends of the ground down, setting the stage for an entertaining night's cricket and a Super Over victory for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The same buzz of anticipation prevailed when Gayle walked out to open the Royal Challengers Bangalore innings, alongside Tillakaratne Dilshan. Up against Gayle was Dale Steyn, in a match-up full of exciting possibilities.
In the event, the Sunday showdown lasted all of one delivery, an unexciting single. Then, the stadium erupted in utter delight – welcome, franchise loyalty – as Gayle was evicted by G Hanuma Vihari, an occasional offspinner whose day was made when he picked up the prized scalp with his very first delivery.
Gayle's anti-climactic dismissal, however, didn't take the edge away from another gripping, low-scoring contest in the Indian Premier League that culminated in the first Super Over of this year's competition. R Vinay Kumar, who had done well to push the match into the Super Over by only conceding six off the last over of regulation play, was taken apart by Cameron White – who hammered two sixes – as Hyderabad amassed 20 runs. Bangalore, opening with Gayle and Virat Kohli against the pace of Steyn, managed only 15 as Hyderabad surged to the top of the table at this early stage with their second win in as many matches.
In normal play, Bangalore, batting by choice, laboured to an unimpressive 130 for 8, and Hyderabad, needing two off the last delivery, scrambled a bye to finish on 130 for 7.
At various stages, Hyderabad threatened to implode, sucked in as much by the pressure of the run chase as the questions asked by the Bangalore attack. That they pushed the game into the Super Over was largely due to Vihari, who kept the innings together with a measured unbeaten 44 but couldn't finish things off.
Hyderabad were rocked early on when Moises Henriques struck twice in his first spell, and while Akshath Reddy and Vihari did stabilise the innings, they took their time doing so. Bangalore's bowling gave nothing away even if the ground fielding alternated between the exceptional and the very ordinary, and once Virat Kohli brought Muttiah Muralitharan on, Hyderabad's task became that much more difficult.
Muralitharan foxed Akshath with his second delivery but it was Jaidev Unadkat who struck telling blows by dismissing Kumar Sangakkara and Thisara Perera in his second spell, setting up the tense finish.
The Bangalore innings hit a roadblock all the way through, the only pocket of resistance coming through Kohli and Henriques, who both got into the 40s. Otherwise, not one batsman passed 10, tied up in knots by the Hyderabad bowling, which was once again on top of its game even if the catching left a lot to be desired.
Vihari bowled only the one over, as did Ashish Reddy, but that was time enough for both to make an impact. Where Vihari netted Gayle, Ashish accounted for Kohli with a beautifully disguised slower delivery that elicited a half-push from the batsman, completing an acrobatic one-handed catch on his follow through.
Steyn had a rare off-day, conceding 37 runs from his four overs, but Ishant Sharma – who produced a peach to account for Dilshan – was as hostile and accurate as he had been on Friday and was complemented superbly by Perera and Amit Mishra, who turned in another wonderful exhibition of controlled, teasing legspin bowling. Bangalore, clearly top-heavy and badly missing AB de Villiers, had little to show after the Kohli-Henriques fourth-wicket stand of 43 was snipped by Ashish, and though Henriques batted deep into the innings, the final flourish never eventuated.
Story first published on: Sunday, 07 April 2013 19:40 IST