Sinking Sunrisers look for lift against rising Super Kings in Delhi
To revive their season, the Sunrisers will need more than just their overseas personnel to perform
The IPL caravan moves to Delhi, one of the worst-hit regions in the throes of a resurgent Covid-19 wave raging through India. The teams kicking off the eight-match leg in the city - the Chennai Super Kings and the Sunrisers Hyderabad - have set up camp for four games apiece and, like the other six sides, will be subject to tighter biosecurity restrictions, the onus, as per the BCCI, as much on winning as on catering to "something much more important…humanity." Conditions at the Arun Jaitley Stadium have historically favoured both the Super Kings and the Sunrisers, each winning six out of their eight outings at the venue. On recent evidence, though, the Super Kings, on a four-match winning run, hold the edge as the Sunrisers suffered their fourth defeat in five games in a one-over shootout against the Delhi Capitals two nights ago. Pivotal to their turnaround since a seven-wicket loss in their season opener, vital contributions have come in fairly evenly from across disciplines in the Super Kings set-up. Ravindra Jadeja's all-round tour de force at the Wankhede on Sunday that snapped the Royal Challengers Bangalore's undefeated streak lent them a derring-do reminiscent of their title-winning campaigns of old.
To stall a team high on confidence and revive their own season, the Sunrisers will need more than just their in-form overseas personnel in Jonny Bairstow, Kane Williamson and Rashid Khan to muster a fight. That their Indian bowling personnel have blown hot and cold remains as much a concern as their captain David Warner's want of form and fluency at the top.
Manish Pandey could slot back into the line-up as the Sunrisers' middle-order troubles continue, after Warner described his omission in the fixture against the Capitals as a "harsh" call by the team's "selectors". Pandey's replacement, 23-year-old Virat Singh, who labored to a 14-ball 4, could be on his way out.
The Super Kings had opted to "err on the side of safety," according to Robin Uthappa, by resting Moeen Ali in the last game because of a tight hamstring. The England allrounder is expected to recover in time for the face-off against the Sunrisers, who missed the services of Bhuvneshwar Kumar in their last match owing to a thigh strain he suffered on April 21.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Faf du Plessis, 2 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Ambati Rayudu/K Gowtham, 5 Ravindra Jadeja, 6 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Moeen Ali/Dwayne Bravo, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Imran Tahir, 11 Deepak Chahar
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Virat Singh/Manish Pandey, 5 Vijay Shankar, 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 J Suchith, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Sandeep Sharma/Khaleel Ahmed, 11 Siddarth Kaul
Warner strikes at over 150 against both Jadeja and Tahir in T20s and at 150 against Ali but struggles to put away the likes of Sam Curran, Deepak Chahar and Dwayne Bravo, against whom his strike rate hovers between 76 and 112. He scored only 6 in the last match and has just one fifty in five innings in this edition, so the Super Kings may be tempted to feed him pace early on. If he is able to counter that ploy, though, his sixth straight 50-plus score against the Super Kings in India and the distinction of the first batter to 50 IPL half-centuries could be there for the taking.
Since the start of IPL 2020, the Super Kings have scored 43 runs on an average in the powerplay. In instances where they scored better in that phase, they ended close to 180, with a success rate of 80% in those matches. In contrast, a score of under 43 in the first six overs have translated to scores of 150 runs or fewer, the success rate dropping to a mere 25%. Powerplay specialist Sandeep Sharma, who has the most wickets in the first six overs in IPL history, with an economy rate of 6.7 since last season to boot, may be the Sunrisers' best bet to keep a check on the Super Kings' run flow in that phase.
Stats that matter
If Pandey returns to the XI, Wednesday's match will mark his 150th appearance in the IPL.
Teams winning the toss have opted to chase 42 times in 74 outings at the Arun Jaitley Stadium.
Jadeja is two hits shy of a ton of sixes in T20s.
Bairstow needs 71 to become the fifth player with 1000 runs in the tournament as a wicketkeeper.
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha