Dispirited Lions face confident Sunrisers in virtual semi
Friday, May 27, 2016
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
Sunrisers Hyderabad and Gujarat Lions exchanged the top two positions on the points table for the majority of the league stage. Now, they face off in the second qualifier, a virtual semi-final. The loser will bid adieu to the tournament, ending two months of gruelling training and travelling. It will be Lions' second crack at getting into Sunday's final against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Sunrisers have had the better of Lions in the round-robin phase, winning both matches, and the feel-good factor is with them after they brushed aside Kolkata Knight Riders in the eliminator on Wednesday.
In that match, played on a typically sluggish Feroz Shah Kotla pitch, Australia allrounders Moises Henriques and Ben Cutting bolstered Sunrisers' defence by banging the ball mid-pitch, a strategy Lions might have to adopt on a conceivably similar surface. The eliminator also featured only the second instance this season when a batsman other than David Warner or Shikhar Dhawan top scored for Sunrisers; Yuvraj Singh brought his experience into play to lift their total up to 162.
Lions, by contrast, must have felt deflated after AB de Villiers snatched away their final berth in the first qualifier with a sensational 79. Adjusting from the Chinnaswamy's run-filled, fast-paced surface to Feroz Shah Kotla's slowish pitches could be Lions' biggest headache. But they have the personnel to do so. Left-arm spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Shadab Jakati - if he is not too scarred by Royal Challengers' assault on him - along with the wily variations of Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Dwayne Bravo could be just what is needed.
Gujarat Lions LWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sunrisers Hyderabad WLLWL
In the spotlight
In Lions' previous two games, they returned to their opening combination from the first few games of the tournament. Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch. A pair as devastating as any in the competition, but, together, they are yet to produce the spark that could leave the opposition helpless. A semi-final could be the stage they need.
David Warner has scored 686 runs in 15 games this season, at an average of 52.76 and a strike rate of 147.84. Even by his lofty standards, those are excellent returns. With sluggish conditions expected, the Powerplay could be the easiest time to score. If he imitates his average and strike rate, Sunrisers will forge ahead in the knockout game.
Shadab Jakati was plundered for 45 runs in his three overs in the first qualifier. With three left-hand batsmen in Sunrisers' top four, Lions could contemplate including Pravin Tambe or chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik.
Gujarat Lions (probable): 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Suresh Raina (capt), 4 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 5 Dwayne Smith, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Eklavya Dwivedi, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Dhawal Kulkarni, 11 Shivil Kaushik/Pravin Tambe
Ben Cutting, Kane Williamson's replacement in the eliminator, registered a golden duck at No. 6 but impressed with the ball. The out-of-form Deepak Hooda struck a quickfire 21 and could hold on to his place. Sunrisers are unlikely to tinker with their wining combination, unless they decide to include legspinner Karn Sharma for left-arm spinner Bipul Sharma.
Sunrisers Hyderabad (probable): 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Moises Henriques, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Naman Ojha (wk), 7 Ben Cutting, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Barinder Sran, 10 Karn Sharma//Bipul Sharma, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Pitch and conditions
Sunrisers defended 162 in the Eliminator against Knight Riders and Yuvraj Singh's 44 was the top score of the game. The surface was characteristically sluggish with good and back-of-a-length deliveries holding up. With similar conditions expected, the captain winning the toss might opt to bat, going against the early-season trend of chasing.
There is no rain forecast.
Stats and trivia
- Gujarat Lions have won eight out of 10 matches while chasing, but just one out of five matches when batting first
- Mustafizur Rahman has the best economy rate (7.28) in the end overs (overs 16-20), among all bowlers who have bowled at least six overs during this period
Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo