Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face off
Hyderabad v Rajasthan, Abu Dhabi
Thursday, April 18, 2014
Start time 1830 (1430 GMT, 2000 IST)
A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad were rabid in their defence of low totals, winning three out of four times they posted under 140. Both teams have, in the past, squeezed every last resource available to produce the desired result. It remains to be seen if the revamped teams can do the same this season.
Shane Watson, Rajasthan's new captain, proclaimed the side has emerged stronger after the spot-fixing scandal and the only thing on their minds is the season ahead. They have a settled squad and bank on each player justifying his potential and sometimes exceeding it. Take the case of their allrounders: James Faulkner, in 2013, became the first bowler to snare two five-fors in the same edition and has since gained considerable repute at the death, with both bat and ball. Abhishek Nayar and Rajat Bhatia have had little or no opportunity to showcase their wares in international cricket, but their all-round value is beyond question.
Hyderabad also ride on two explosive talents from Australia as well. The top-order looks terrifying with the newly-enlisted Aaron Finch and David Warner and combining with captain Shikhar Dhawan. But brittleness lurks lower down. Most teams would attempt to nip out the two big-hitting Australians with spin early on and hope for the middle order to falter. But as Hyderabad showed last season, their Dale Steyn-led bowling attack is more than game to pick up the slack, especially if Abu Dhabi welcomes both teams with another grassy pitch.
Watch out for ...
The T20 world has learned to speak Darren Sammy's name in hushed tones this year. A strike-rate of 212.32 and a penchant for dusting off chases with the most brutal flourish has elevated the allrounder on par with the best finishers in the business. Plus, the number of Australians in the opposition might tempt him to up his game just that bit more.
Steven Smith is everyone's favourite scrapper. He was an instant hit in his debut season and the effort he places into building his game and an admirably cool head under pressure has hoisted him to be in contention for Australia's Test captaincy. A fact Rajasthan would have paid attention to while snapping him up as their most expensive buy.
Stats and trivia
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo