On his day, Manish Pandey can be devastating with a bat in his hands. Rajasthan Royals was at the receiving end of his beautiful onslaught at the Dubai International Stadium on Thursday.
Chasing what looked like an under-par target of 155, his unbeaten 83 (47b, 4×4, 8×6) helped SRH post an eight-wicket win — after three straight defeats. His 140-run stand for the unbroken third wicket with Vijay Shankar (52 not out, 51b, 6×4) ensured RR had little chance after Jofra Archer had made early inroads with another superb spell of fast bowling.
David Warner’s men, with eight points, have now caught up with RR and Kings XI Punjab, as the battle for a place in the playoffs hots up in the lower half of the table.
The chase had begun disastrously, though, as Archer extended his stranglehold over Warner, removing him with the fourth ball of the innings. The delivery moved away to take the outside edge and Ben Stokes justified Steve Smith’s decision to have a second slip with a diving catch. It was the sixth time in the last seven innings that Archer was dismissing the Australian.
The England quick dealt another severe blow in his next over, this time with a ball that came back in sharply, at 149kmph. It was too good for Jonny Bairstow, who was bowled through the gate.
This meant SRH’s two most successful batsmen, both with over 300 runs in the tournament, were back in the dugout inside the third over, with the score on 16. It also meant that Pandey had an opportunity to showcase his undoubted talent.
He began to stroke the ball nicely from the beginning, taking two boundaries off Kartik Tyagi. In the following over, he hit two sixes off Ben Stokes, including one with a stunning flick over square-leg.
He timed his shots well and paced his innings wonderfully. At the other end, Vijay Shankar was growing in confidence too.
By the time Archer was brought back after his two-over burst, it was too late. He was even hit for three successive fours by Vijay Shankar.
Earlier, RR struggled after being put in. None of the batsmen were able to convert their starts. Stokes (30, 32b, 2×4) and Sanju Samson (36, 26b, 3×4, 1×6) put on 56 for the second wicket before it was broken by Jason Holder, who made his first IPL match in four years count by taking three wickets.