A mix of youth and experience has taken Sunrisers Hyderabad forward, as they now have five wins from eight matches, after early jitters this season. Up against a struggling Chennai Super Kings in the southern derby at MCA Stadium on Sunday, Sunrisers begin favourites as they look to remain in the top four.
In Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umran Malik, Marco Jansen, and T Natarajan, Sunrisers possess one of the most dangerous pace attacks in this IPL, with Washington Sundar taking the lone specialist spinner's spot. These pacers have alone accounted for 45 of the 57 wickets taken by the team this edition, with Natarajan and Malik scalping 15 wickets each. It shouldn't be a surprise that they boast the best bowling average
As far as batting is concerned, unlike the last few seasons, there is no power-hitter like Jonny Bairstow or David Warner at the top of the order. However, the likes of Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram, Nicholas Pooran, and Abhishek Sharma have lifted Sunrisers' batting. Only captain Kane Williamson's underwhelming batting form would be a bit of concern moving into the second half of the tournament - he has scored a total of 148 runs from eight matches so far, averaging just 21.14.
On the other side are Super Kings, grappling with injuries to key players - Moeen Ali
was the last entrant to this list after they lost pacers Deepak Chahar and Adam Milne - and team balance. With two victories from eight matches, they are placed second from the bottom and are hanging by a thread in the playoff qualification race.
In the batting department, with opener Ruturaj Gaikwad struggling to get going, Super Kings need the likes of Shivam Dube and Robin Uthappa to get back to their best. In the first five matches, both batters had scored two half-centuries each and had scored 401 runs between them. Contrastingly, in the last three matches, Dube and Uthappa made a total of 40 and 34 runs, respectively. Despite boasting batting depth, Super Kings would need someone to stay long in the innings and not just rely on MS Dhoni for fireworks at the end if they are to climb up the ladder.
To their relief, Super Kings have improved their bowling in the powerplay. After picking up just two powerplay wickets in the first four matches, left-arm pacer Mukesh Choudhary and Sri Lankan spinner Maheesh Theekshana took five wickets apiece in this phase in the last four matches. Dwayne Bravo leads the attack with 14 wickets from eight matches. However, the bowling unit, collectively, needs to be consistent and economical - barring Mitchell Santner and Theekshana, the rest of the bowlers have conceded at more than eight runs per over - for a miraculous turnaround.
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Washington Sundar returned to the Sunrisers XI in their previous match against Gujarat Titans, after missing a few games due to a finger injury. Both the teams are unlikely to make any changes to the playing XI.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Kane Williamson (capt), 2 Abhishek Sharma, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Shashank Singh, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Marco Jansen, 10 Umran Malik, 11 T Natarajan
Chennai Super Kings : 1 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 2 Robin Uthappa, 3 Ambati Rayudu, 4 Shivam Dube, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Dwaine Pretorius, 10 Maheesh Theekshana, 11 Mukesh Choudhary
Dhoni has enjoyed great success against fast bowlers this edition, scoring 109 runs from 67 balls at a strike rate of 163. Against a pace-packed Sunrisers, the wicketkeeper will be key in overcoming the threat that their bowlers pose. In the IPL, Dhoni has particularly targeted Bhuvneshwar, having hit 94 runs at a strike rate of 165 in 11 innings, without getting dismissed.
Stats that matter Among batters to have scored a minimum of 50 runs, Gaikwad (12.8) and Williamson (15.8) have the worst and fourth-worst batting average this IPL. Dhoni averages 53.3 against Sunrisers in the IPL. Aiden Markram has crossed the 40-run mark in four out of the six innings this season.
Srinidhi Ramanujam is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo