Gujarat Titans have proved they can take the heat of being part of the IPL. With that win against Punjab Kings, they’ve shown that they are the team to beat – they have the batting firepower and extraordinary bowling that makes them strong contenders for the title – in their very first shot.
Is there anything not working for them? Hardik Pandya has shown signs of being captain cool in the making as he stayed calm in tense moments watching Rahul Tewatia do his magic. Titans’ middle order playing a big role in two out of the three wins means it’s no longer a big area of concern. Shubman Gill was back to his fluent best, Hardik chipped in with some all-round contributions, Mohammed Shami and Lockie Ferguson have been effective in the powerplay and death overs alike, and Rashid Khan has been Rashid Khan. The one area they’d want to look at is the opening combination. With Matthew Wade struggling at the top of the order, they have the option to bring in Rahmanullah Gurbaz. But it’s likely they would persist with the winning combination.
Titans’ form might intimidate Sunrisers Hyderabad. After a couple of disappointing losses, they beat Chennai Super Kings – who themselves are enduring a rough season – to get a W against their name. While it was quite a convincing win, they’d know by now that they have to bring their A-game to end Titans’ dream start. And they need to plan how to approach Rashid – who comes up against his former franchise – in order to give themselves a better chance.
There were a few highlights in the win: the Tamil Nadu pair of Washington Sundar and T Natarajan bowled well to restrict Super Kings to 154, the under-pressure Abhishek Sharma showcased his talent with a 50-ball 75 and Rahul Tripathi, at No. 3, found his range. However, captain Kane Williamson’s form – especially his slow starts – has been a huge concern. While Umran Malik has been hitting impressive speeds, his bowling has been wayward. Will Williamson push himself down the order? Will they bring in legspinner Shreyas Gopal for Malik?
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Abhishek Sharma, 2 Kane Williamson (capt), 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 5 Aiden Markram, 6 Washington Sundar, 7 Abdul Samad, 8 Romario Shepherd, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Umran Malik/Shreyas Gopal, 11 T Natarajan
Gujarat Titans: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Matthew Wade (wk)/Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 3 Vijay Shankar, 4 Abhinav Manohar, 5 Hardik Pandya (capt), 6 David Miller, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Darshan Nalkande, 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Mohammed Shami
Although Williamson is struggling at the top of the order, it is unlikely Sunrisers will promote Tripathi to open mainly because of his poor record against Shami and his decent record against Rashid. Shami has been one of the key bowlers for Titans and has picked up six wickets in three games. While he also has the wood over Williamson, having dismissed him four times in nine meetings in T20s, he can also be a threat to Tripathi, who comes into this game on the back of good scores. Tripathi can be dangerous once he gets going, and Shami could be the man who can stop him. Tripathi has been dismissed by Shami twice in seven games, averaging just 10 and striking at 91. He has struck at 141 against Rashid, so he might be key in playing out the legspinner in the middle overs.
Shami is the only bowler to have dismissed Williamson three times in the IPL. Williamson averages just 9.67 against the fast bowler
Hardik Pandya is one big hit away from tallying 100 sixes in the IPL
Rashid needs to strike two more times for a total of 100 wickets in the tournament