With six defeats in seven matches, Sunrisers will need to turn things around quickly if they are to make the playoffs
Fortunes couldn’t be any different for the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Mumbai Indians at the moment.
After suffering five defeats in six matches, the Sunrisers axed their captain David Warner, hoping a new leader would help change their fortunes. It brought them little respite, as Kane Williamson couldn’t prevent what would be a heavy defeat against the Rajasthan Royals. The Sunrisers’ batting has fumbled – their highest score remains 177, and on the six occasions that they have chased, their only successful attempt was getting to 121 set by the Punjab Kings.
In their bowling ranks, the Sunrisers lost T Natarajan to injury, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar has struggled, and Khaleel Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul and Vijay Shankar have failed to provide control. Jason Holder, on the other hand, has played only once despite returning figures of 3 for 30. They have used as many as 21 players so far, and yet have an explosive opener in Jason Roy unused. Assuming the bottom-placed Sunrisers win all their remaining matches, the most they can get to is 16 points. Going by their performances so far, it would require a miracle for that to happen; and if it doesn’t, then it would be the first time since 2016 that they fail to make the playoffs.
Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, seem to have rediscovered their lost form. For a side that had lost two in a row and hadn’t batted second in their first five matches, they came back brilliantly to chase down 172 and 219 to remind the others of their potential. Kieron Pollard was destructive against the Chennai Super Kings in Mumbai’s previous match, having hammered 87 off just 34 deliveries, and the Sunrisers will need no reminder that he had also struck an unbeaten 35 from 22 balls to help Mumbai defend 151 against them earlier this season.
What Mumbai will only want more of though is runs from Hardik Pandya, who is playing his second consecutive IPL season as a batter only. He has struggled to time the ball and clear the ropes, though that could be down to the slow and low Chennai pitch where Mumbai played five games. But though Pandya has underperformed while averaging only 8.67, he remains too good a batter to be looked beyond so soon.
In the news
There have been four matches played at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi so far this season, and the scores batting first read: 171, 171, 218 and 220. That gets the average to 195, the highest among the four venues used. A combination of the pitch neither aiding swing nor spin and the ground’s shorter boundaries have helped the batters dominate. In fact, three of those totals have been hunted down successfully – two of them by Mumbai – with the only instance of the team batting first winning a game coming when the Royals defended 220 against… well, the Sunrisers. That suggests it is a win-toss-and-bowl-first pitch, but only if the Sunrisers’ out-of-form line-up can rise out of their slump will Mumbai be in any real danger of coming second on the night.
Mohammad Nabi was kept waiting to attack the Royals’ left-handers until Williamson realised they may never arrive before finally bowling him. To the Sunrisers’ dismay, Nabi ended up conceding 21 in what would turn out to be his only over of the day. Dropping him may be harsh, but the Sunrisers may prefer Holder over him to round off their foreigners’ quota, especially with Rashid Khan and Jonny Bairstow looking good, and Williamson being the captain.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Manish Pandey, 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Kedar Jadhav, 5 Abdul Samad, 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Khaleel Ahmed, 11 Sandeep Sharma
Although Jimmy Neesham departed for a first-ball duck against the Super Kings, he had no option but to attack in that situation. His two overs also cost 26, but it would be too cruel to drop him after just one bad day, and so Mumbai may pick the same XI that beat the Super Kings in a thriller.
The Sunrisers will hope Rashid Khan and Khaleel Ahmed can maintain their impressive record against Pollard in the IPL. While Pollard has scored at a strike rate of just 64.9 against Khan – he has merely 24 off 37 balls against him across nine innings – Ahmed too has kept him quiet at a strike rate of only 80. Incidentally, both take the ball away from the big-hitting Pollard, who has been dismissed once each by the two.
In the IPL, Williamson has strikes rates of just 75, 100, 110 and 115 against Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Jasprit Bumrah, respectively. The only frontline Mumbai bowler against whom Williamson has an impressive scoring rate is, not surprisingly, his national side team-mate Trent Boult, whom he hits at 157. Kedar Jadhav, too, doesn’t enjoy facing Kulkarni, Chahar and Krunal, having a sub-80 strike rate against them all. Even against Bumrah, Jadhav manages to go at only 110.8. If Mumbai can maintain the same pace against the Sunrisers’ Nos. 3 and 4, then those who follow may further feel the heat in an already tough campaign.
Stats that matter
With Warner dropped, the Sunrisers may choose to go with Jason Roy as Bairstow’s opening partner. The duo has batted together five times in T20Is, with those 267 runs having come at an impressive average of 53.40 and a staggering run rate of 10.20. And even as an opening pair in ODIs, Bairstow and Roy have cracked 2663 runs at 7.04 runs an over, including 13 century and nine half-century stands. Though that would mean a fourth different opening combination for them this season, that might just be the tonic the Sunrisers need to keep their playoffs hopes alive.
Pollard cracked eight sixes in his knock of 87 against the Super Kings, and in a piece of bad news for the Sunrisers, he has hammered 18 maximums against them in seven innings since the 2018 IPL. But to counter him, they have Bairstow, who has smashed 15 sixes this season, just one behind the leading KL Rahul.