The Indian Premier League 2020 is nearing the business end of the tournament and things are starting to heat up on the points table, with almost every team vying for a spot in the playoffs. It's that time of the tournament where you can't afford slip-ups and have to treat every match as a do-or-die encounter, especially teams like Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad who are currently in the bottom-half of the points table and are fighting tooth and nail to keep their hopes alive.
RR have eight points in 10 games, while Hyderabad have six in nine encounters. Coming into this match, the Steve Smith-led side would be slightly more confident after thumping Chennai Super Kings in their last encounter. Meanwhile, Hyderabad have lost four of their last five games and are still struggling to get their combination right.
BUTTLER AND WARNER IN THE MIDDLE-ORDER!
Both Rajasthan and Hyderabad have some issues in their middle-order and that have forced them to make some changes to their batting line-up. Jos Buttler, who started the tournament as an opener, has been batting down the order in recent games to give Rajasthan some "stability" in the middle-order. The wicketkeeper-batsman walked out to bat at No. 5 against Chennai Super Kings and smoked 70* off 48 balls to help his team chase down a tricky target of 126 on a slow surface of Abu Dhabi.
The 30-year-old has enjoyed a lot of success as an opener in this format but RR need someone with a mature head to play the role of a finisher and no one fits the bill better than Buttler. The Englishman is used to batting in the middle-order but the same can't be said about David Warner.
The Australian batsman, who has opened in 250 out of 291 T20s he has played, surprisingly batted at No. 4 against Kolkata Knight Riders to accommodate Kane Williamson in the top-order and also strengthen their fragile middle-order. Warner scored 47* off 33, but SRH lost the encounter via Super Over. Warner has batted at No. 4 for Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) and Hyderabad in the past and actually has a solid record - 854 runs at 47.44 in 23 innings. Having Williamson and Jonny Bairstow up the order is not a bad move, and Warner can hold the innings together batting at No. 4, hence allowing the other batsmen to bat more freely.
UNITE STOKES AND BUTTLER
Rajasthan have used Ben Stokes as an opener in the four games he has played this season but the flamboyant all-rounder has looked far from his best. Stokes has an average of 33.5 and a strike rate of 130.1 as an opener in the shortest format of the game but the 29-year-old is more acclimatised to finishing games. Robin Uthappa is batting up the order and Rajasthan also have the option of partnering him with either Smith or Sanju Samson. That would allow Stokes to bat in the middle-order and finish games with Buttler and Rahul Tewatia.
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR GARG AND SHANKAR?
Vijay Shankar has hardly done anything fruitful since joining the SRH set-up in 2019. In this time period, the all-rounder has only managed 263 runs in 19 innings at an average of 17.53 and a strike rate of 124.6. Shankar did a pretty solid job with the ball in hand against Kolkata but overall, the medium-pacer has taken only three wickets in eight innings. Shankar has been horrible with the bat this season and that's why someone like Warner and Williamson have been forced to bat down the order.
The 29-year-old has been around for quite some time now but hasn't been able to step up his game. The SRH team management too must be running out of patience considering Shankar has constantly been failing to finish games for them, a role that they expected him to play in this edition. Meanwhile, Priyam Garg scored that match-winning fifty against Chennai, but apart from that, the 19-year-old has managed only 55 runs in six innings.
Hyderabad have the option of bringing in Virat Singh who's more suited in the middle-order. They could also bring back Abhishek Sharma in place of Shankar and give him the freedom to play his natural game. The young all-rounder from Punjab can smash those fiery cameos along with Abdul Samad, especially now that they have Warner and Manish Pandey in the middle-order to give them some stability.
Rajasthan Royals: Robin Uthappa, Steven Smith (c), Sanju Samson (wk), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Ankit Rajpoot, Kartik Tyagi.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson, Priyam Garg/Virat Singh, Vijay Shankar/Abhishek Sharma, Abdul Samad, Rashid Khan, Sandeep Sharma, T Natarajan, Siddarth Kaul/Khaleel Ahmed.