With momentum on their side, a confident Sunrisers Hyderabad would look for another complete performance to continue their forward march in the IPL when they face a struggling Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Eliminator at Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Pushed to the wall after a slow start to the tournament, SRH produced a lion-hearted effort in the second leg and peaked at the right time to qualify for the playoffs by finishing third in the league standings, just ahead of RCB.
It has been a series of contrasting results for the two teams in the business end of the tournament.
While RCB suffered four consecutive defeats to finish the league stage at the fourth spot, SRH registered a hat-trick of wins to edge past Virat Kohli’s men in the standings.
SRH made a remarkable turnaround in their final three games – defeating Delhi Capitals, RCB and table-toppers Mumbai Indians to book their last-fourth berth.
And come Friday, SRH would be brimming with confidence, especially after their 10-wicket win over MI in the last must-win game.
The credit for SRH’s success in the past few matches goes to the opening pair of Warner and Wriddhiman Saha.
The duo has clicked up front and has so far shared two century stands – 107 against DC and then 151 against MI.
While Warner has led SRH from the front, scoring 529 runs from 14 games to occupy the second spot in the scorers’ list, Saha (184 runs from 3 matches) has proved that the SRH team management has erred in benching him for 11 ties.
Such has been Warner and Saha’s performance that the likes of Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson, Priyam Garg and Jason Holder were hardly bothered.
On the bowling front, SRH has found the right combination in Sandeep Sharma, Jason Holder, Shahbaz Nadeem, T Natarajan and Rashid Khan and is expected to stick with them.
While Sandeep has been sensational in the powerplays, Natarajan has done the job in the death overs.
Rashid has been consistent in the middle overs, but certainly the inclusion of Holder and Nadeem has provided balance to the team.
On the other hand, knowing very well that another blunder could send them packing, the Kohli-led RCB have a lot to ponder over.
Coming into the match with four consecutive losses, RCB’s confidence would be rock-bottom.
|Mat||RCB wins||SRH wins|
|RCB vs SRH||16||7||9|
But skipper Kohli understands it is not the time to think about past results and what matters from here on is three wins on the trot to lift the IPL title.
But it would be easier said than done as RCB seem to have lost some of their steam.
In their last match against DC, RCB’s batting-heavy top-order failed to live up to expectations.
Josh Philippe, who has been brought in place of Aaron Finch, has looked good in patches but hasn’t been able to convert his starts and in all likelihood, Kohli might be tempted to bring back Finch on Friday.
Young Devdutt Padikkal, who scored his fifth fifty of the event in their last game, has been consistent at the top but Kohli needs to step up as of late, his strike rate has come under the scanner.
Kohli and AB de Villiers need to take responsibility in the big match for RCB, which also features the likes of Chris Morris, Shivam Dube and Washington Sundar and bats quite deep.
Navdeep Saini, who was rested in the last match after he suffered a split webbing, is expected to return to partner Mohammed Siraj, Isuru Udana and Morris.
The spin department will be under the wings of Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal.
The big battles
Devdutt Padikkal vs Sandeep Sharma
Padikkal has been RCB’s star at the top of the order. He has already scored 472 runs this season and it is the manner in which he has scored them that has been most impressive. At the other end, Sandeep Sharma has been quietly effective. He takes wickets (13), maintains an impressive ER (7.34) and his lack of pace allied with his ability to swing the ball poses interesting questions to the batsmen.
Washington Sundar vs David Warner / Wriddhiman Saha
Warner and Saha have been unstoppable at the top of the order for SRH. Saha’s belligerence has got Warner to come out of his shell as well and when they do well, SRH does well. Sundar has been brilliant for RCB – he takes the new ball and gives nothing away. It will be a clash of styles that could well decide the contest.
Manish Pandey vs Yuzvendra Chahal
Pandey has been the star of the SRH middle-order. Capable of bringing them back into the match or going on the attack and good against spin and pace. Chahal, on the other hand, has been Kohli’s go-to bowler. The leg-spinner loves to toss the ball up and is all about taking wickets. It will always make for a splendid battle.
ABD vs Rashid Khan
AB de Villiers can turn the match on his own. SRH know that, RCB know that and the world knows that too. But SRH have one weapon that can perhaps blunt his edge. Rashid has had a brilliant IPL. His economy is great, he is amongst the wickets and he succeeds while bowling to the best in the business. This is a battle worth waiting for.
How they got here
SRH's path to the Eliminator
|SRH vs RCB||21 Sep, Mon (1930)||Dubai||SRH lost by 10 runs||0|
|KKR vs SRH||26 Sep, Sat (1930)||Abu Dhabi||SRH lost by 7 wickets||0|
|DC vs SRH||29 Sep, Tue (1930)||Abu Dhabi||SRH won by 15 runs||2|
|CSK vs SRH||2 Oct, Fri (1930)||Dubai||SRH won by 7 runs||4|
|MI vs SRH||4 Oct, Sun (1530)||Sharjah||SRH lost by 34 runs||4|
|SRH vs KXIP||8 Oct, Thu (1930)||Dubai||SRH won by 69 runs||6|
|SRH vs RR||11 Oct, Sun (1530)||Dubai||SRH lost by 5 wickets||6|
|SRH vs CSK||13 Oct, Tue (1930)||Dubai||SRH lost by 20 runs||6|
|SRH vs KKR||18 Oct, Sun (1530)||Abu Dhabi||SRH lost Super Over||6|
|RR vs SRH||22 Oct, Thu (1930)||Dubai||SRH won by 8 wickets||8|
|KXIP vs SRH||24 Oct, Sat (1930)||Dubai||SRH lost by 12 runs||8|
|SRH vs DC||27 Oct, Tue (1930)||Dubai||SRH won by 88 runs||10|
|RCB vs SRH||31 Oct, Sat (1930)||Sharjah||SRH won by 5 wickets||12|
|SRH vs MI||3 Nov, Tue (1930)||Sharjah||SRH won by 10 wickets||14|
RCB's path to the Eliminator
|SRH vs RCB||21 Sep, Mon (1930)||Dubai||RCB won by 10 runs||2|
|KXIP vs RCB||24 Sep, Thu (1930)||Dubai||RCB lost by 97 runs||2|
|RCB vs MI||28 Sep, Mon (1930)||Dubai||RCB won Super Over after a tied match||4|
|RCB vs RR||3 Oct, Sat (1530)||Abu Dhabi||RCB won by 8 wickets||6|
|RCB vs DC||5 Oct, Mon (1930)||Dubai||RCB lost by 59 runs||6|
|CSK vs RCB||10 Oct, Sat (1930)||Dubai||RCB won by 37 runs||8|
|RCB vs KKR||12 Oct, Mon (1930)||Sharjah||RCB won by 82 runs||10|
|RCB vs KXIP||15 Oct, Thu (1930)||Sharjah||RCB lost by 8 wickets||10|
|RR vs RCB||17 Oct, Sat (1530)||Dubai||RCB won by 7 wickets||12|
|KKR vs RCB||21 Oct, Wed (1930)||Abu Dhabi||RCB won by 8 wickets||14|
|RCB vs CSK||25 Oct, Sun (1530)||Dubai||RCB lost by 8 wickets||14|
|MI vs RCB||28 Oct, Wed (1930)||Abu Dhabi||RCB lost by 5 wickets||14|
|RCB vs SRH||31 Oct, Sun (1930)||Sharjah||RCB lost by 5 wickets||14|
|DC vs RCB||2 Nov, Mon (1930)||Abu Dhabi||RCB lost by 6 wickets||14|
|Kane Williamson||Rashid Khan||Vijay Shankar||Jonny Bairstow|
|David Warner||Bhuvneshwar Kumar||Mohammad Nabi||Wriddhiman Saha|
|Manish Pandey||Khaleel Ahmed||Abhishek Sharma||Shreevats Goswami|
|Priyam Garg||Sandeep Sharma||Abdul Samad|
|Virat Singh||Siddarth Kaul||Fabian Allen|
|Billy Stanlake||Sandeep Bavanaka|
|T Natarajan||Sanjay Yadav|
|Virat Kohli||Yuzvendra Chahal||Moeen Ali||Parthiv Patel|
|AB de Villiers||Mohammed Siraj||Pawan Negi||Shahbaz Ahmed|
|Gurkeerat Mann||Umesh Yadav||Shivam Dube||Joshua Philippe|
|Devdutt Padikkal||Navdeep Saini||Washington Sundar|
|Aaron Finch||Adam Zampa||Christopher Morris|
|Dale Steyn||Isuru Udana|
Match starts at 1930 IST and will be broadcast on the Star Sports network and Disney+Hotstar
(With PTI inputs)