Jonny Bairstow and David Warner were all crickets fans could talk about all through IPL 2019. The two opposite ends of the Ashes rivalry, had come together to form an unlikely pair which did not just tear part record books with their century stands but also left curious fans gasping for the secret behind the success of 'this' pair. However, SunRisers Hyderabad failed to reap similar benefits this season with both the batters blowing hot and cold, barring a 160-run stand against Kings XI Punjab early in the season in Dubai. Yet the franchise persisted, and why not, knowing that it was their only batting hope amid a spate of injuries that harmed their middle-order combination. But with their backs against the wall, SRH made a brave call, replacing Jonny Bairstow with unheralded Wriddhiman Saha and the gamble handsomely paid off.
Bairstow did little wrong on his part. He scored 345 runs in 11 innings this season at 31.36 and a strike rate of 126.83 with three half-century knocks. But SRH were more eager to fit in an all-rounder with Jason Holder warming the bench, as head coach Trevor Bayliss explained, and get in Kane Williamson in to solidify the middle order with the pitches turning slow.
"Kane [Williamson] has been batting very well for us when available, and obviously the other overseas is the captain [David Warner] so, Jonny was the odd one out on this occasion. But look, with the way Jonny plays, I’m sure he will play a lot more," Bayliss was quoted by Metro News.
SRH's only like-for-like replacement for Bairstow was Saha, who is more of a specialist keeper, a rare breed in T20 cricket. But those who have followed IPL avidly over the years will know that Saha has been a good striker of the ball, especially in the powerplays. His career IPL strike rate (138.2) is better than that of Chris Gayle (135), KL Rahul (132.7), Warner (138). And he proved is yet again this season with his knocks of 87 off 45, 39 off 32 and 58* off 45 in the three innings he played as an opener for SRH. His strike rate during these matches during the powerplay was 220.0, 140.0, and 164.7 respectively.
And how did it help SRH? They got their old Warner back.
|Warner in powerplays|
|Runs||Balls||RPO||Strike Rate||Dot Ball %|
In the first 10 games he opened for SRH, Warner's strike rate in the powerplays was 113.7 and overall was 127.6. With Saha's inclusion, Warner's corresponding strike rates increased to 176 and 163.9 with the Aussie scoring 159 runs with two half-centuries.
Not only so, the scoring rate of 8.23 of the Warner-Bairstow opening pair this season, increased to 9.51 for Saha and Warner who so far scored 268 runs in 169 balls in three innings. Against Delhi Capitals, the pair scored a 107-run partnership in 58 balls and then single-handedly pulled off the entire target of 151 against Mumbai Indians.
Saha's free strokeplaying seemed to have helped Warner rediscover himself and return to his aggressive self which has once again strengthened SRH's top-order batting. With Williamson and Manish Pandey to follow and Holder as a finisher, SRH look at set to emulate their 2016 feat.