Sunrisers Hyderabad v Titans, CLT20, Ranchi September 27, 2013

Sunrisers, Titans in race for crucial points

Match facts

September 28, 2013
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)

Big picture

Halfway through the league phase, Group B of the Champions League still remains wide open; and sandwiched in the middle are Sunrisers Hyderabad and Titans, struggling to inch ahead to the top two. Chennai Super Kings are at the top with eight points, with Trinidad & Tobago, Sunrisers and Titans on four points. Each of the three teams still has a chance of qualifying and the outcome of Saturday's game between Sunrisers and Titans could be important in deciding their future course.

Titans haven't yet had a day of all-round dominance in the tournament. Against Chennai Super Kings in their first match, hampered by the dew and their own erratic bowling, they lost control of a 185-run defence, after AB de Villiers had set up the game well for them. They were clear favourites against Brisbane Heat, but some aggressive bowling from the Australian T20 champions, some bad shots and poor running almost did them in, until the Titans pace bowlers dismantled a weakened Heat batting line-up.

As the league gets closer, Titans will need batsmen like Jacques Rudolph and Farhaan Behardien to score a few knocks and strengthen a batting line-up that has looked largely dependent on Henry Davids and de Villiers. Against Heat, their seamers made the most of supportive conditions, and Marchant de Lange's return to form is a heartening sign for the bowler and the team.

Sunrisers have a few niggles to fix too. Coach Tom Moody praised the team for making a match of a 200-plus run chase against Super Kings, but the side also rely heavily on openers Shikhar Dhawan and Parthiv Patel. In their last match, Sunrisers lost their top three in the space of two overs and never recovered and they were in a similar situation in the first game. Their bowling, with frontliners Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra and allrounders Thisara Perera, JP Duminy and Darren Sammy, remains their best strength. However, there is a cloud over Sammy's fitness, following his injury in the game against Super Kings. In case Sammy does not play, Perera, who had a torrid last game, and Duminy will be expected to handle extra responsibility.

Players to watch

Having missed the IPL 2013 due to an injury, JP Duminy has had a good start to his tenure with Sunrisers. He scored a fifty against Otago in the qualifiers and although he hasn't replicated that form in the main tournament yet, Duminy has been contributing with wickets and his usual athletic fielding. His proven skill in the middle order, coupled with his first-hand experience of the Titans attack, make him a particularly crucial player for Sunrisers in this game.

One of the obvious weaknesses Titans have had is the lack of good starts. In his last 10 T20 innings, Jacques Rudolph's highest score was 35. In five of these games, he has opened alongside Davids and the highest partnership the pair has added has been 46. Given the crucial game, and Rudolph's lack of T20 form, it will be interesting to see if Titans ring in a change at the top of the order.

Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo