4th Match (D/N), Hyderabad, April 02, 2023, Indian Premier League
(20 ov, T:204) 131/8

Royals won by 72 runs

Player Of The Match
54 (22)
Cricinfo's MVP
88.23 ptsImpact List

Vastly improved Sunrisers and Royals face each other for their IPL 2023 opener

Sunrisers have strengthened their spin attack, while Royals have a genuine seam-bowling allrounder in Holder

Big picture - Will upgrades translate into on-field results?

Last season, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals seemed to have squads that covered a lot of bases but were still somehow incomplete. Sunrisers had impressive pace resources and seemed to have sorted out their long-standing batting-depth issue, but they lacked spin options, and struggled to get going with the bat in the powerplay, with Kane Williamson enduring a horror season. Royals went all the way to the final with a team that had an excellent core of specialists but no allrounders to tie everything together.
Both teams begin a new season with squads that look vastly improved, on paper.
Sunrisers have brought in Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order to go with one of the most exciting middle orders in the competition - how they'll deal with the headache of picking only two out of Aiden Markram, Harry Brook, Glenn Phillips and Heinrich Klaasen remains to be seen - and have strengthened their spin contingent significantly by signing Akeal Hosein and Adil Rashid.
Royals, meanwhile, have a genuine seam-bowling allrounder in Jason Holder, and most conveniently have the Impact Player rule as an ally to assuage any lingering concerns over batting or bowling depth.
How will these upgrades translate into on-field performance? We'll see very soon, starting Sunday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.

Team news - Bhuvneshwar to lead SRH

Sunrisers only have five overseas players to pick from, with their three South Africans - Markram, Klaasen and Marco Jansen - only joining the team on April 3, after the ODI series against Netherlands. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will lead Sunrisers in their opening game in Markram's absence.
Sandeep Sharma has replaced Prasidh Krishna, who is out for the entire season with a back stress fracture. Obed McCoy, who is recovering from a knee injury, is a doubtful starter.

Toss and Impact Player strategy - Choices galore

Sunrisers Hyderabad
Probable bat-first XI: 1 Abhishek Sharma, 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Harry Brook, 5 Glenn Phillips (wk), 6 Abdul Samad, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Akeal Hosein, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar (capt), 10 Umran Malik, 11 T Natarajan
Sunrisers could pick just three overseas players in their first XI if they bat first, and bring in a fourth - either the fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi or the legspinner Adil Rashid - depending on conditions.
Probable bowl-first XI: 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Rahul Tripathi, 3 Harry Brook, 4 Glenn Phillips (wk), 5 Abdul Samad, 6 Washington Sundar, 7 Akeal Hosein, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar (capt), 9 Adil Rashid/Fazalhaq Farooqi, 10 Umran Malik, 11 T Natarajan
If they bowl first, Sunrisers could pick six genuine bowling options, and bring in either Abhishek Sharma or another batter for the chase.
Rajasthan Royals
Probable bat-first XI: 1 Jos Buttler (wk), 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Devdutt Padikkal, 4 Sanju Samson (capt), 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Riyan Parag, 7 Akash Vasisht, 8 Jason Holder, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
The hard-hitting left-hand batter Akash Vasisht, who also bowls a bit of left-arm spin, could start for Royals if they bat first, giving them extra batting depth alongside the West Indies allrounder Jason Holder. At the change of innings, either Yashasvi Jaiswal or Devdutt Padikkal could make way for a fast bowler - Kuldeep Sen, Navdeep Saini and Sandeep are possible options.
Probable bowl-first XI: 1 Jos Buttler (wk), 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Sanju Samson (capt), 4 Shimron Hetmyer, 5 Riyan Parag, 6 Akash Vasisht, 7 Jason Holder, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Navdeep Saini/Kuldeep Sen/Sandeep Sharma, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
In a bowl-first scenario, Padikkal could come in as the Impact Player when Royals begin their chase.

Stats that matter - Hosein vs left-handers

  • Hosein could be a valuable addition to the Sunrisers squad. His left-arm spin is skilful and not entirely dependent on match-ups - since the start of 2020, he has a T20 economy rate of 6.22 against right-hand batters and 7.53 against left-handers. The IPL will challenge him, of course: it's not necessarily for a lack of skill that Axar Patel (8.72), Ravindra Jadeja (9.03) and Krunal Pandya (9.10) have significantly higher economy rates against left-handers in this period.
  • Sunrisers will be glad to have Hosein and Rashid in their squad, because they had a serious spin issue last season. Their spin wickets tally of 15 was the lowest of any team in IPL 2022. Royals topped that list with 40.
  • Death bowling was one of Royals' major issues last season. Holder could help them sort it out - of all bowlers with at least ten wickets in the last four overs in the IPL since the start of 2020, he has the second-best average (12.19) while conceding a reasonable 9.54 per over.
  • Holder needs one wicket to reach the 200 mark in T20 cricket.

Pitch and conditions - Pace is ace

Since the start of 2018, fast bowlers have a collective average of 25.17 and an economy rate of 8.07 in IPL matches at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. They haven't done better on either count at any Indian venue that's hosted at least 20 IPL games in this time. As far as spinners' performances go, however, the ground sits in the middle of the pack. Expect pace, therefore, to play a significant role on Sunday.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Over 20 • SRH 131/8

Royals won by 72 runs
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