Sunrisers’ batting – chiefly that of skipper David Warner – had carried the franchise in the first half of the tournament. But coming off a six-day gap, SRH needed to get into winning ways in a hurry to gain lost ground on teams like KKR, Gujarat Lions and Delhi Daredevils, who played three games this past week.
First up, they hosted table-toppers Gujarat Lions on Friday. Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck the early blows by getting Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina inside five overs – he went on to earn the Man-of-the-Match award for this – but Mustafizur left his impression on this five-wicket win. In his first over, the last of the Powerplay, he had the in-form Dinesh Karthik out for a duck, producing a leading edge which was exceptionally taken by Kane Williamson at backward point. Just two runs came from Mustafizur’s opening over.
When he returned to bowl the 14th, 17th and 19th overs, he conceded one run, six runs and eight runs to apply the squeeze on Gujarat at the death. The dangerous Ravindra Jadeja fell first ball of the penultimate over, miscuing to mid-off off a trademark Mustafizur slow cutter. Figures of 2/17 in four overs were excellent returns.
On Sunday, SRH met Mumbai Indians in Visakhapatnam and once more Mustafizur played a big role. This time victory was set up by Warner (48 off 33 balls) and Dhawan (82* off 57). Chasing 178, Mumbai never came close. Ashish Nehra ripped out three wickets in his first two overs to leave the defending champions hemorrhaging – like Bhuvneshwar in the previous game, these early strikes made Nehra the Man of the Match – before the naggingly accurate Mustafizur claimed 3/16 in three overs.
True, the damage had been done, but Mustafizur’s variety totally stymied the lower order and snuffed out all chances of a late charge. He extracted Hardik Pandya with his first ball of the game, then had Tim Southee off his seventh, before getting Mitchell McClenaghan with his 13th. With each opening delivery of his three overs, Mustafizur took a wicket.
At the post-match press conference, Dhawan summed it up in one reply: “Mustafizur is a great bowler”. And as he has been all through the IPL, continued to be Warner’s go-to man. He did the job in both matches this past week while keeping runs on the low. His figures in two games were 7-0-33-5 – high quality contributions from the pace bowler of the tournament.