Head held high on a night of fours & sixes

Sunrisers opener scores century as Hyderabad posts highest total in IPL, Karthik’s heroics in vain as RCB lose by 25 runs
Travis Heads acknowledges the crowd after reaching his century.
Travis Heads acknowledges the crowd after reaching his century.

BENGALURU: In the sixth over of the Hyderabad innings, Bengaluru had some respite. Halfway into his run-up, Yash Dayal aborted it. He had lost his towel before his delivery stride. It was the only time during Travis Head’s murderous innings that he didn’t swipe across the line, pull in front or behind square or dump the ball into the stands. It didn’t count as a legal ball but the Bengaluru fielders would have liked the calmness of the moment.

Either side of that — the first 5.4 and the next 6.5 overs — the Australian was divine. To be fair, he has taken to Indian strips of late and he continued his mission to own another 22 yards of land in this country (the deck was interesting with lots of green grass on the middle but barren on both ends, like a middle-aged man suffering from male pattern baldness).

When Head left the stage after scoring the fourth-fastest century in the history of the IPL, you wondered if normalcy would return. By the time they were done, the capacity crowd was cheering for dot balls with a gusto usually reserved for sixes. Hyderabad had racked up the highest-ever score in the history of the competition — it was one of those nights when a lot of history was rewritten. 287/3 off 20 overs (most sixes in an IPL innings, most runs in an IPL innings to name a few).

There was a positive for RCB at the toss. Faf Du Plessis won before opting to field while Pat Cummins, seriously, remarked 240 may be par. On this kind of a batting strip, you want high-intent openers; both Head and Abhishek Sharma are that. The hosts opened with the part-time spin of Will Jacks. His second over off the night (third of the innings) was the only one in which Hyderabad didn’t hit a boundary. By the third over itself, the two openers had sussed out the pitch. Dot balls, quick singles and turning ones into twos wouldn’t be worth much; they needed boundaries.

Reece Topley came in for serious tap off Head including a picture perfect straight six. Lockie Ferguson, making his debut for the franchise, also travelled. His pace on style of bowling makes him an ideal candidate to concede a lot of runs in this ground and that’s what happened when a Head flick soared over fine leg. It was minimalistic hitting — clear the front pad, let your hands and hips do the magic — but it was thrilling nonetheless.

There was a phase in Head’s innings — sandwiched by the end of the powerplay — where he went 6, 6, 1, 4, 6, 2, 6, 4, 1, 4, 6 and 6. In the process, he had converted a relatively quick 16 off 11 to 69 off 24. You could argue bowlers don’t find much joy on this surface. But Two hours later, Mayank Markande and Pat Cummins showed the benefits of mystery spin and variation. Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis raised brief visions of climbing Mount Everest.

But Markande beat Kohli’s defences. The captain, whose team has now lost a fifth consecutive game, kept going but a slower ball bumper resulted in Du Plessis edging on to the keeper. Thing got from bad to worse as Saurav Chauhan got out without troubling the scorers. With RCB at 122 for 5 at that stage, it looked all but over and RCB needed more than just a miracle. That’s when Dinesh Karthik took over. Karthik slammed as many as seven sixes to keep the crowd alive.

His innings also included five fours as he helped the home side get close to the target. However, the record total was beyond RCB and Karthik’s reach as they ran out of deliveries. RCB might have eventually lost by 25 runs but they walked away with their head held high. Brief scores: SRH 287/3 in 20 ovs (Head 102, Klaasen 67, Samad 37 n.o) bt RCB 262/7 in 20 overs (Karthik 83, Du Plessis 62, Virat 42; Cummins 3/43).

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