IPL 2021: Punjab Kings stay alive as Sharjah sharpens its defences

Last-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad crumble again as Punjab remain in playoff chase

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There were times during the 2020 Indian Premier League when the UAE’s oldest cricket venue appeared defenceless against the might of modern batsmen.

The top three highest match aggregates in that behind-closed-doors tournament came at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Five of the top eight totals on that list came were there.

Punjab Kings, in fact, lost out in the highest score match last season, when they failed to defend a target of more than 11 per over against Rajasthan Royals.

As such, their bowlers might have been fearing more punishment when they arrived in the city for their first match there since the resumption of the 2021 season.

They need not have fretted, though. On the evidence of the first two nights in Sharjah this time around, it is the batters who are going to have to work hardest for their money.

The wickets at Sharjah were relaid four months ago. They have yet to have the glassy sheen which is the trademark of the ground, which has often been termed a bowler’s graveyard in the past.

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings played out a slow burner on Friday.

Then, a day later, Punjab defended 126 with relative ease, as Sunrisers Hyderabad’s miserable run of form continued.

Perhaps lumping the fault for the laboured scoring on the facilities is missing the point, too. After all, this fixture did pit together the two worst performing sides in the competition.

The fact the going was tough for batters was evidenced by Aiden Markram top scoring for Punjab with a mere 27. Jason Holder exploited the conditions the best of the Hyderabad bowlers, as he took 3-19.

The chase was painful. They may have some illustrious names in their ranks, but the Hyderabad heavy-hitters are all off colour at present.

David Warner’s travails continue. He made just two at the top of the order as the reply started poorly.

Kane Williamson made just one before chopping on from Mohammed Shami.

Wriddhiman Saha made 31, but it was the 17th over before he was out. And he had opened the innings.

At least Holder managed to make a game of it, lacing five sixes in an innings of 47 not out.

But the 17 needed off the last over to force a win, and the six required off the last ball to force a Super Over, proved just beyond him, as Punjab claimed a five-run win.

It gave them a fourth win in the competition, and lifted them above defending champions Mumbai Indians into fifth place in the table.

Updated: September 25, 2021, 6:08 PM