Vijay Shankar couldn't have known it when it occurred; but the Sunrisers Hyderabad all-rounder dropping Ben Stokes in the eighth over was only going to assist in keeping Rajasthan Royals to a below-average total. Shankar would go on to play a match-winning hand of 50 not out in the chase of the sub-par score as well. But at the moment when he dropped Stokes, Shankar was blissfully unaware of how his action would stack up his, and Hyderabad's, future for the better.
Looking for his first six of not just this match but his campaign with Rajasthan, Stokes was put down at the midwicket boundary off Rashid Khan's bowling. At this point, Stokes ran two runs and moved from a personal score of 17 to 19, from 20 balls.
By the time he was dismissed, bowled by Khan early in the 13th over, Stokes's score had snailed to 30, from 32 balls. These weren't great numbers for a man who had opened Rajasthan's innings, and in effect, occupied compatriot Jos Buttler's place at the top. Buttler had walked in in the 12th over, a time most unsuited to both his starting and finishing skills. He never really looked comfortable and was out soon after, for a boundary-less 12-ball 9.
Given that two of the most destructive batsmen in T20 cricket combined to score 39 runs off 44 balls, Rajasthan finished rather well to get to a score of 154. That's 10 runs short of the average first innings score in Dubai, but it was enough to keep Rajasthan's bowlers interested. And for a short while in the chase, at least Jofra Archer was.
There were probably two big reasons, beyond the health of the Dubai pitch of course, why David Warner chose to chase after winning the toss on Thursday. One, the last six games of the IPL were won by the team batting second and, two, Rajasthan's last three wins had come while chasing; one of those against Hyderabad.
Warner would've felt vindicated of his judgement by restricting Rajasthan to a sub-par score. But they still had to score the runs. Third ball of the chase, Warner edged Archer over the head of first slip for a boundary. He wasn't so fortunate off the fourth ball, as Warner's edge carried to a diving Stokes at second slip.
The Hyderabad camp collectively felt the jitters when Archer dislodged Jonny Bairstow's middle-stump with a 150kph ball. But in walked Manish Pandey to soothe frayed nerves. Along with Shankar, who played anchor to perfection, Pandey went for Rajasthan's jugular. Two cover-driven boundaries off Kartik Tyagi's pace got him going, before two sixes from a Stokes over sent his form into overdrive.
Together they stitched together 140 unbroken runs for the third wicket to hand Hyderabad a rather comfortable win in the end. Shankar's late assault on Archer—three of the most gorgeous lofted boundaries in the 16th over—probably denied Pandey a much-deserved century.
IPL's first Indian centurion scored an unbeaten 83, running out of chase-runs to become IPL's latest Indian centurion. For that too, Pandey has Shankar's drop from earlier in the evening to blame.