A resurgent Sunrisers Hyderabad will be looking to extend their purple patch and notch up their fourth win on the trot when they meet Punjab Kings at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai on Sunday.
A bowling-heavy side on paper, Sunrisers have shown they have enough firepower in the batting, evident from the recent performances of Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram and Nicholas Pooran. Opener Abhishek Sharma has also found his feet after a disappointing start to the season. And although captain Kane Williamson has been a bit sedate, as a batting unit, Sunrisers have been doing things just about right.
They have a hat-trick of wins while chasing after losing their first two matches. Now they come up against Kings, a side that boasts significant batting muscle.
Mayank Agarwal’s men could be intimidating with their hit-the-ball-hard-from-the-word-go mantra. They have been especially ruthless at the beginning of an innings, scoring at ten runs per over in the powerplay in four of their five matches. Such strong starts have laid the platform for Kings to post competitive totals, and they have scored 180 or more in four games. That the lowest strike rate for any of their batters in the powerplay is 129 this IPL says a thing or two about their aggressive approach up front.
However, the same cannot be said of their bowling. They have relied heavily on pace mainstay Kagiso Rabada and legspinner Rahul Chahar, who have so far picked up 13 wickets between them. And while allrounder Odean Smith has grabbed six wickets, they have come while conceding 12.14 runs per over. Also, although Arshdeep Singh and Vaibhav Arora have the second and third-best economy rates respectively among Kings’ bowlers, they are yet to get among the wickets.
With the tournament moving closer to the halfway stage, Kings would want match-winning performances from their bowlers to stay in the top four.
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Washington Sundar missed Sunrisers’ previous match against Kolkata Knight Riders after suffering a split webbing on his bowling hand in the game against Gujarat Titans on April 11. Then, their coach Tom Moody had said that he expected the injury to “probably [take] a week or so to settle down”, which would imply him missing out on this game too.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Abhishek Sharma, 2 Kane Williamson (capt), 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Shashank Singh, 7 Marco Jansen, 8 J Suchith, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Umran Malik, 11 T Natarajan
Punjab Kings: 1 Mayank Agarwal (capt), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Jonny Bairstow, 4 Liam Livingstone, 5 Jitesh Sharma (wk), 6 Shahrukh Khan, 7 Odean Smith, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Vaibhav Arora, 11 Arshdeep Singh
Given the aggressive start that is expected from Kings’ openers Mayank and Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s role with the new ball will be crucial if Sunrisers are to contain their opponents. And the numbers are in Bhuvneshwar’s favour: the two strike at only 107 and 98 respectively against him across all T20s. Equally important will be T Natarajan at the start; he has picked up four wickets in the powerplay at an economy rate of 6.5.
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Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo