SRH captain Pat Cummins lauds 'awesome' Nitish Kumar's all-round heroics

SRH captain Pat Cummins lauds ‘awesome’ Nitish Kumar’s all-round heroics


The past week has been unlike any other for 20-year-old Nitish Kumar Reddy. The Andhra allrounder made an unbeaten eight-ball 14 when Sunrisers Hyderabad beat Chennai Super Kings four nights ago. But on Tuesday, he played a bigger role – hitting a 37-ball 64 that lifted a floundering Sunrisers innings from 64 for 4 to 182 for 9, which proved to be match-changing.

It wasn’t just his batting contribution that was key. Nitish, who bowls lively medium pace in the mid-130s, dismissed Jitesh Sharma in the 16th over with Punjab Kings looking for a late charge.

More than the wicket, it was the manner of his setup, of bowling a slower bouncer into the pitch and having Jitesh hack towards the longer boundary, that was even more impressive. Nitish finished with figures of 1 for 33 off three overs. No wonder Pat Cummins, the captain, was extremely delighted with Nitish’s performance.

“He was awesome,” Cummins said. “Straight to the top of the order [in this game], was fantastic in the field, bowled three overs too. To get us to 180 off his bat, it was amazing.”

Nitish himself seems to be a man of few words, but seemed pleased at being able to contribute. It’s likely he only got the opportunity because Sunrisers decided Abhishek Sharma’s form was too good for him to be batting at No. 3. With Mayank Agarwal sick, Abhishek made a splash against CSK with a 12-ball 37 to set the tempo in their chase of 166, which they comfortably achieved with 11 balls to spare.

That performance may have tempted the team management to continue with Abhishek at the top with Travis Head, paving the way for Nitish to keep his place even though Agarwal was ruled fit for this match. Nitish repaid the faith with a back-to-the-wall knock in which he hit four fours and five sixes.

“For me, it is a big contribution for my team and myself,” Nitish said at the presentation. “I have been talking to myself that I have to believe in myself and that I have to be there [for the team]. The seamers were bowling well, so I did not want to take them on. When the spinners came on, I wanted to attack them and that is what I did.”

The game was a lot closer than it looked like it would be at one stage. That was down to a slew of catches going down in the death overs, including two in the final over that were tipped over the ropes for sixes. Needing 29 off the final over bowled by Jaydev Unadkat, Kings fell three short with Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma giving Sunrisers a mighty scare.

Cummins highlighted Sunrisers’ approach as he summed up their tight win. “It was a great game of cricket,” he said. “They bowled really well at the start, we did well to get to 182 and then defended it. The beauty of the impact player is that you feel you have really deep batting. We try to be positive, to take the game on.

“If you get 150-160, you are going to lose nine out of ten games anyway. We knew the new ball was going to be a key time. We were pretty happy [with our score]. We saw what happened with the new ball for them, so thought if me and Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] could start off with a wicket, it would be good. We have plenty of left-armers, right-armers, so just tried to give the bowlers the best chance of success.”

Shikhar Dhawan, the Kings captain, lamented their top-order meltdown in the powerplay. Kings were tottering at 20 for 3 in the fifth over with Jonny Bairstow, Prabhsimran Singh and Dhawan all back in the dug out. That they had a shot at victory was courtesy a late flourish from Shashank and Ashutosh, who added 66 off just 27 balls for the seventh wicket.

As the final ball was nailed for a six, Kings couldn’t have helped but look back on the six they conceded off the last ball when Harshal Patel missed an opportunity at the long-on boundary.

“Shashank and Ashutosh played great knocks. I feel that we kept them to a good total. Unfortunately, we could not cash in on the first six overs and that is where we lost the game,” Dhawan said. “That pinched us hard. The wicket was not offering that much bounce so every individual has to come up with better plans.

“We could have stopped 10-15 runs more and that made a difference as well. As a batting unit, we did not perform. It is important for the top order to perform. Shashank and Ashutosh’s performance gives us confidence and hope for the next game. We have to do better in certain areas and improve.”


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