Even before the start of IPL 2020, it seemed the lack of experience in the middle order could be a headache for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Two games into the season, things are not looking any rosier with the team still searching for their first points.
It doesn't help that their opponents on Tuesday would be the Delhi Capitals, who have one of the most balanced bowling attacks in the tournament. Despite two first-choice bowlers - Ishant Sharma and R Ashwin - being unavailable, the Capitals strangled the Chennai Super Kings on Friday to register their second win in as many matches. Kagiso Rabada was once again in the forefront with the ball, while Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant all scored good runs to put behind the wobbly start against the Kings XI Punjab. Their main pre-tournament hole, the lack of a finisher, also seems to have been plugged by Marcus Stoinis.
The Sunrisers, on the other hand, are yet to figure out their best XI. With David Warner and Jonny Bairstow opening the innings and Manish Pandey coming in at No. 3, Priyam Garg is forced to bat out of position. After a bad back ruled Vijay Shankar out for the match against the Kolkata Knight Riders, the Sunrisers tried Wriddhiman Saha, but his laboured 31-ball 30 failed to provide any confidence. It will not be a surprise, therefore, if they make further changes to their playing XI.
In the news
Since hurting his left elbow against the Kings XI, Ashwin has hit the gym and also batted in the nets, but the Capitals will not rush him back. "Ashwin is doing pretty well, but we want to give him a two-three game rest so that he feels better," Iyer had said at the toss against the Super Kings. Also, there has been no official word on Ishant Sharma's fitness after he went out because of back spasms.
The extent of Shankar's back problem is not fully known, but if fit, he should replace Saha in the playing XI for the Sunrisers. Kane Williamson, though, may once again find it difficult to break in despite being available.
Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 4 Rishabh Pant (wk), 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Amit Mishra, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Avesh Khan
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Vijay Shankar/Wriddhiman Saha, 5 Mohammad Nabi, 6 Abdul Samad, 7 Abhishek Sharma, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Sandeep Sharma, 11 Khaleel Ahmed/T Natarajan
Expect Rabada and Anrich Nortje to go around the wicket straightaway to Warner, who hasn't enjoyed that sort of bowling lately. Since the start of 2019, his T20 average against right-arm fast bowlers coming from around the wicket has been 24.00, as opposed to 60.44 when they are bowling from over the wicket. It started with Stuart Broad during the Ashes, and then, earlier this year, Jofra Archer exploited the same weaknesses during the T20I and ODI series in England. Warner was uncomfortable against Pat Cummins as well when the seamer deployed a similar plan for the Knight Riders in the last game.
Pant has a great record against the Sunrisers' two best bowlers: Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan. No one else has dominated Kumar as much in the IPL - Pant averages 65 with a strike rate of 250 against him. Against Khan, those numbers are 54 and 146 respectively. Overall also, Pant has an average of 46.86 against the Sunrisers, his second-best against the current IPL teams. His unbeaten 128 in the 2018 IPL had also come against the Sunrisers, with both Kumar and Khan in the opposition.
Don't be surprised if the Sunrisers bring Kumar or Sandeep Sharma on when Iyer comes to the crease. Iyer has been out thrice each to Kumar (seven innings) and Sandeep Sharma (eight innings) in T20 cricket and has a combined average of 12 at a strike rate of 83 against the two.
Stats that matter
The Sunrisers lead the head-to-head record with 9-6. But this new look Capitals side have a 2-1 record against them, including a win in the Eliminator of IPL 2019.
Pant is yet to hit a six in T20s this year. Also, he has now gone 60 balls without a six in the IPL, his longest streak.
Rabada has taken two or more wickets in each of his last nine IPL games, the most for any bowler in the tournament's history. Last time he went wicketless in an IPL game was 16 matches ago.
Khan and Mohammad Nabi head the list of most frugal bowlers in the IPL since 2019, with economies of 6.4 and 6.5 respectively (minimum 20 overs).
Since IPL 2019, Kumar has taken just 13 wickets in 17 innings in the tournament. However, in the same period, he has taken six wickets in three games against the Capitals.
Among those who have taken at least 20 wickets in the IPL since 2018, Khaleel Ahmed's strike rate of 12.2 is second only to Rabada's 11.