The Sunrisers Hyderabad had lost two straight games at the start of their IPL campaigns in 2014, 2016 and 2020 too. In 2016, they went on to win the title, and in 2020, they made the playoffs, finishing third. But a look back at history might not be enough if they are to avert a third successive loss this season. Especially as they go up against defending champions Mumbai Indians, fresh from consigning the Kolkata Knight Riders to an epic capitulation after coming up marginally short in their season opener against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Chasing at Chepauk in their first two games, the Sunrisers combusted in a rash of ill-judged shots, particularly in their last outing, against the Knight Riders, the want of solidity and fluency in their middle order exposed. They could miss the services of Kane Williamson for a third game on the trot, but even in his absence, the Sunrisers possess resources potent enough - at least on paper - to pose the Mumbai Indians a challenge.
That possibility, however, might warrant some tinkering in the line-up, perhaps even a promotion to the opening spot for Jonny Bairstow, who, if handed the gloves, could allow the side to bring in an Indian allrounder - like Kedar Jadhav - in place of Wriddhiman Saha, who kept in the first two matches but struggled with the bat.
Team combination concerns aren't as acute for the Mumbai Indians, but they might sense an opportunity to hand offspinner Jayant Yadav his first game of the season, a tactical ploy that has reaped captain Rohit Sharma impressive rewards over the past two editions.
In the news
Williamson is unlikely to be fit to make the playing XI, as he continues his recovery from an elbow injury, but he said in a social-media video posted by his franchise that he was "pretty optimistic" about returning to full fitness "within the week".
England batter Jason Roy, whom the Sunrisers had acquired as Mitchell Marsh's replacement, finished his seven-day quarantine on Friday, but might have to wait before getting a game.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt), 2. Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Vijay Shankar, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 Rashid Khan, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Abdul Samad, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Shahbaz Nadeem, 11 T Natarajan
Rashid Khan is the most frugal spinner in the IPL since 2019, conceding at just 5.40 per over, and his economy of 5.20 against the Mumbai Indians is the second-best by a bowler against a single opposition (behind Lasith Malinga's 4.70 against the now-defunct Deccan Chargers). The Sunrisers could have Khan bowl an over or two at Suryakumar Yadav, who averages 58 at Chepauk, the highest for any batter in the IPL, and has struck at 125 with two fifties against his name. Against Khan, though, Suryakumar scores at less than a run a ball. If the remainder of his overs are saved for Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard's arrival at the crease, Khan might be able to stifle the Mumbai Indians' batting might, given Pollard and Hardik score at just 68 and 55 respectively against him, the latter being lowest strike rate in the IPL for any batter against the legspinner.
Such has been the extent of assistance for spinners at Chepauk that even Sharma bowled on Thursday as the Mumbai Indians' third spin-bowling option. With a legspinner and a slow left-arm spinner already in their ranks in the form of Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya, they could strengthen their bowling by fielding Jayant in place of overseas quick Marco Jansen. They had pulled off a similar move, to considerable success, in the first qualifier in 2019 where they brought in Jayant for an overseas player at the same venue. With all of Jayant's six wickets in IPL having been those of left-handers, he could open the bowling to counter David Warner, the lone left-hander in the Sunrisers line-up.
Stats that matter
Warner is one shy of becoming the first batter to 50 half-centuries in the IPL. That landmark fifty would also be his 40th for the Sunrisers, the most by a batter for a team in the tournament. His opposite number, Sharma, is 28 runs short of 4000 Runs in T20s as captain.