It has been some debut Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign for Jonny Bairstow with the England batsman forging the most successful partnership in the 2019 edition alongside his fellow Sunrisers Hyderabad opener David Warner.
Bairstow’s maiden IPL stint came to an end on Tuesday with Hyderabad’s six-wicket loss to Chennai Super Kings with the Englishman being dismissed for a duck in his final outing. However, his contributions prior to the CSK defeat had been nothing short of outstanding with the right-hander finishing his season with 445 runs from 10 innings.
Bairstow averaged 55.62 with the bat in the IPL while maintaining a strike-rate of over 157 and his crowning achievement came in his side’s home clash against Royal Challengers Bangalore where he registered a superb ton.
Motivating himself for his maiden IPL bow wasn’t too hard to do for Bairstow who was not picked in the 2018 IPL auction despite throwing his hat into the ring.
“It’s not difficult to motivate yourself at all,” Bairstow told ESPNcricinfo in an interview.
“It’s a competition that I’ve really, really wanted to play a number of years. You hear stories about people coming over and playing, and it being such a fantastic competition. The fans, how fanatical they are, the atmosphere at the ground.
Jonny Bairstow in IPL 2019 :— Johns (@CricCrazyJohns) April 23, 2019
Matches - 10
Innings - 10
Runs - 445
Average - 55.62
Strike Rate - 157.24
Hundred - 1
Fifty - 2
Fours - 48
Sixes - 18
The best debut season by any overseas player (excluding 2008 Ipl season), see you in 2020. Thank You @jbairstow21. #IPL2019 pic.twitter.com/YDcuSiSuQy
“The whole way it’s put together is brilliant. If you can’t motivate yourself to get up and play in front of 30,000 to 40,000 people, then you’re not in the right job.”
Such has been the impact of the wicketkeeper batsman that he managed to keep out Kane Williamson from the Sunrisers playing XI. Williamson had led Hyderabad to a runner-up finish in the 2018 edition in David Warner’s absence and scored 755 runs over the course of the season.
“With the four overseas players that can play in any team, and you look at the overseas players that we’ve got within the squad, you’ve got four guys that are not playing currently that can be in any moment. So, no, by no means did I think I’d be starting the tournament,” Bairstow said.
“I just saw it as an opportunity to go out there and enjoy myself, and play the IPL. That was purely and simply what it was.
“To experience a new task, a new challenge, to be able to go out and explore the skills that I’ve been working on and go and play in front of a fantastic crowd in that first game at Eden Gardens.”
With Bairstow’s stint now over, stand-in Sunrisers skipper Bhuvneshwar Kumar has admitted that the Englishman will be a big miss for the remainder of the IPL 2019 campaign.
“There is no doubt that these guys have done really well but I won’t say (we are) upset. We have got guys who can replace him (Bairstow),” Bhuvneshwar said after Tuesday’s defeat.
“But the way he performed, we will miss him.”
The hosts chased down Hyderabad’s total of 175 runs with one ball to spare. Chennai are practically in the play-offs with this win, but they do need one more win to seal the spot mathematically.
The breathing space in the top-four has reduced for Hyderabad, with Kings XI Punjab right on their heels and captain Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is aware of the intensity of the competition. The pacer is looking to get three important away wins from their remaining four games and make it to the play-offs.
“It was a par score on that wicket. There was dew on the ground but that didn’t really bother us. The way Watson batted we couldn’t really do much. This is probably the first off day for Rashid (Khan) in three years, anyone can have an off day. The credit goes to Watson,” he said.
“We will obviously miss (Jonny) Bairstow but we have players in the squad who can replace him. We have three away games now out of four and we have to win those games to qualify. We have to be our best to defeat RR. I have learnt a lot doing captaincy.”
Winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni praised Watson for his match-winning knock of 96 runs from just 53 balls and defended the selectors’ decision to back him despite poor form. When asked about the Chennai’s mantra for success, Dhoni joked that he will reveal it only after his retirement to ensure he doesn’t go unsold at the auctions.
“I think you can give individuals some games and the team gives them the rest. Watson has been a match-winner for us. He has been batting well in the nets. Whatever small innings he played so far, he was middling them well although he did struggle a bit,” he explained.
“This is the time when you need to back them. The management’s thinking was to give him as many games as possible. And the team winning also means that a player gets more games than he would actually get. It’s good to see different individuals step up every game. Nice to see our bowling department do well but would like our batting unit also get into the mode that’s necessary for the playoffs.
“(On CSK’s mantra of success) If I tell everyone what it is, then they won’t buy me at the auctions. It’s a trade secret. The crowd support and franchise’s support are key of course. Huge credit has to also go to the support staff who play a huge role in keeping the team atmosphere good for the team and other individuals. Other than this, I can’t reveal anything till I retire. It’s alright, not showing signs of getting worse. With the World Cup coming, I need to be careful as that comes first,” the skipper joked.
Watson was aware that he needed a big score to get out of the rough patch. He thanked the coach and skipper for their faith in him and admitted that Kumar did put him in a tight spot with his swingers.
“I was due for runs, that’s for sure. I can’t thank Stephen Fleming and MS Dhoni enough for their belief in me. Most of the teams I’ve played in, I would have been dropped by now but they showed the trust in me.
“Of course, I was doing alright in the PSL and in the BBL too, struck the ball well. Needed some things to go my way, like it did today when Bhuvi was all over me. He is an incredibly skillful bowler as he swings it both ways,” the Aussie concluded.
The Australian’s impressive knock of 96 from 53 balls helped the hosts chase down Hyderabad’s first innings score of 175/3 with a ball to spare.
MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bowl and though they claimed the scalp of Jonny Bairstow early who went for a duck off two deliveries, David Warner and Manish Pandey put up 115 runs for the second wicket.
Warner scored his sixth consecutive fifty against CSK before he was stumped swinging at Harbhajan Singh’s delivery for 57 from 45 balls. Pandey remained unbeaten on 83 off 49 deliveries to guide SRH to 175 with Vijay Shankar (26) chipping in as well.
Watson also lost his opening partner early when Faf du Plessis was run out by Deepak Hooda at the non-striker’s end in the third over. Following a similar pattern to Sunrisers’ innings, Watson found support in Suresh Raina (38) as the pair accelerated the innings before Ambati Rayudu (21) helped take Chennai within sight of the finish line.
His dismissal in the final over made for a tense end to the game but Kedar Jadhav (11*) was able to complete the chase.
The victory lifts CSK to the top of the standings with 16 points from 11 matches while SRH remain fourth with 10 points and a game in hand.
Following a successful campaign in the Pakistan Super League earlier this year, much was expected of Watson in this season’s IPL. Until the encounter against the Sunrisers though, he had flattered to deceive.
His excellent innings of 96 was his first above 50 this season in 11 outings, and only the third time he surpassed the 30-run mark. Sometimes you need a slice of luck to return to form and Bairstow obliged when he dropped Watson while batting on 33.
The Australian grew in confidence and ended up smashing six sixes and nine boundaries at a strike rate of 181.13. He really began to strut his stuff in the 15th over. He opened the face of his bat to guide Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s yorker for four with third man inside the circle. The next delivery was cut late to beat the keeper and ran away to the boundary again.
Having endured a few glares from Rashid Khan, Watson seemed to make it a point to go after the spinner. By the end, Watson had hit three boundaries and two sixes as the normally economical Afghanistan bowler went for 11 an over.
WARNER THE MACHINE
This edition of the IPL have made two things abundantly clear – cricket grounds are way too small for Andre Russell, and David Warner always delivers.
Well, maybe not ‘always’, but surely the two innings out of 10 the Australian failed to score 50 runs or more in can be overlooked.
After a year away from competitive cricket owing to his ball-tampering suspension, few would’ve expected Warner to return in such scintillating form but the Orange Cap – worn by the highest run-scorer in the tournament – has barely left his head.
The opener has notched up seven fifties and one unbeaten ton so far this season and though his knock of 57 against CSK was far from his most impressive, it spoke volumes of his reliability to put runs on the board.
Chennai’s bowling attack gives little away, especially at home, so Warner had to work for his runs. He hit three boundaries and two sixes during his innings, underwhelming by his standards. However, he managed to maintain a healthy strike rate of 126.67 and that was achieved by an aversion to dot balls and hard running between the wickets.
Even when not at his best, Warner found a way to maintain his remarkable consistency, scoring his fifth consecutive 50-plus score, no one has managed more in IPL history.