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Hashim Amla was on song as he milked the bowlers en route to a beautifully compiled 96 which ensured that Kings XI Punjab set Sunrisers Hyderabad a competitive target. The opener drove and lofted the ball with finesse as he shaped the innings at the IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali. The 56-ball knock was a treat for sore eyes as runs piled up for the Murali Vijay-led side in their last game on their home ground.
A batsman in the classical mould, Amla not only entertained with some silky strokes but also revealed a few shots from the AB de Villiers mould that got him runs on leg side. Unfortunately his heroics weren’t enough as Yuvraj Singh scaled down the 180-run target with two balls to spare.
While reflecting on his own knock and the defeat, Amla also lauded the SRH left-hander’s efforts in the game. Excerpts:
You set the pace with three boundaries off Ashish Nehra and went on to a play a beautiful knock. Can you tell us about the knock?
Really grateful to get some runs on the board. It was a good wicket to bat on, (though) it got a bit slower towards the end. We tried our best to get as many runs as we could, so just happy to get some runs. (But) it is really tough to lose a game like that. Kings XI Punjab have been trying really hard to get the momentum. We have won and we have lost; but we have done some good things and hopefully we will take some learnings for the next game. Do you think you could have had a few more runs on the board the way you were going?
The wicket wasn’t an easy wicket. I think the way Yuvraj batted, he made it look very easy. When he is on song he usually plays a very special knock. It wasn’t an easy wicket, but we got whatever runs that we did. Unfortunately not the best result for us. How do you approach batting in T20?
I try and keep it a bit simple. Certainly upfront when guys are bowling, (I try and) play good cricket shots and try and get the runs. And there is an element of risk you have to take in the Powerplay and sometimes outside the Powerplay as well. Sometimes you get away with those. Sometimes it goes your way and you manage to cash it. I try to do that, play positively upfront and in this game I did it well.
There were some cheeky shots behind the wicket. Do you practice for those as well?
(Smiles) You’ve got to practice (those innovative shots) for that quite a while, because in certain situations you may need to play it and it worked out well today. On another day you just miss it. But today it worked out well (and I) managed to get a few runs here and there. We had to keep the scoreboard ticking. We knew they that they are a very good bowling unit and that is why Sunrisers are at the top of the lot because they have been a very good all-round team.
We see a lot of footwork and adjustments which help you score with ease. Tell us about that.
It is about practice. You’ve got to practice various things. The objective is to try and score as many runs as you can of each ball. So I just try and do that, even if it means moving around the crease. T20 is a kind of game where a lot of guys are doing it. How has your IPL debut season been?
It’s been wonderful coming half way through the season. It’s an enjoyable bunch of guys (in KXIP). Unfortunately we haven’t done as well as we would have liked, but in saying that (the tour) it has been excellent. There has been quite a few last over finishes, last ball finishes but that is part of the T20 game. Perhaps some other time it will go our way but the guys have played the best cricket they have tried to. The mood has been good; hopefully we can translate it to some victories.
Disappointed at missing those four runs?
Definitely! I would have loved to get those four runs. If we would have got four runs more, I might have (not only) got a hundred but (we would have had) four runs more to defend, which is the most important thing. But I am glad to get some runs and (happy that I) tried to fulfil my role in the team as best as I can. So certainly no regrets.
With an unbeaten 42 off 24 balls against Kings XI Punjab, Yuvraj Singh took the Sunrisers Hyderabad to their eighth win of the season. With 39 runs required off the last 18 balls, the left-hander powered Mohit Sharma over deep-midwicket for a six as he and Ben Cutting plucked 19 runs off the over. Then, an over later with 9 required off the last six balls, he slammed the pacer for a six to take his team within two runs off a win.
Speaking about his knock that helped the team consolidate their position in the VIVO IPL 2016 points table, Yuvraj said, “(I feel) Very good! I wanted to finish the game. It has been a while since I finished the game. I had a good knock against Mumbai Indians where I could play in the end, so that’s what I try and do.”
Speaking about the win that has firmed up SRH’s position in the race to the playoffs, Yuvraj said, “We needed that win. I think Kings XI Punjab batted really well and 180 was a tough target. It is a huge target in T20 cricket. If we would have lost early wickets, we would have been in trouble. But the key was to have wickets (in hand) till the end and try and get the runs.”
Coming in to bat at 97 for two, Yuvraj kept the chase on course with a 42-run partnership with young Deepak Hooda until the latter departed. He watchfully compiled and paced his knock to hold the innings together after the openers had got the team off to a solid start and took them to the finish line in a 41-run unbroken stand with Cutting. “As the ball gets older, it is hard to hit. You need to spend some time at the wicket. I know the Mohali wicket, I have been brought up playing here, so I know you’ve got to spend some time and get set, and then start hitting. I think everybody contributed towards the win - Hooda, David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan. We had good partnerships and that is the reason we could get to the end. Ben Cutting hit the ball when it was much needed (six off Mohit Sharma and Sandeep Sharma in the 18th and 19th over respectively) and that took the pressure off me.
“We had wickets in hand which really helped us cross the line,” Yuvraj mentioned while reflecting on the chase. Yuvraj and Cutting upped the ante by scoring off Mohit, who has been KXIP’s go-to man in the death overs. Discussing the 18th over, which put SRH firmly in the driver’s seat, Yuvraj said, “I think in these situations the bowler is much under more pressure (than the batting side). Mohit (Sharma) has been a terrific bowler for Kings XI Punjab and won them many games in the death. So I thought rather than making a mistake, I wanted to hit the ball which was in my arc. If he bowled good yorkers or good areas, then you have to give (respect) to the bowler.”
With the league phase at its business end, the contribution of the middle-order bodes well for the team after the top-order had done bulk of the job early on in the tournament. “Yes, definitely! (it is good for the team),” agreed Yuvraj while adding, “I think it is important for everybody to get that chance, to get those runs. The more games you play the better you get as you enter the last four.”
Speaking about the team’s performance he said, “Everybody has contributed really well. Unfortunately Ashish Nehra had an injury today. Hopefully, we can do well in the last two games and eventually get into the last four. I hope we are there.”