It is an inconsequential battle. Sunrisers Hyderabad are still in with a chance but it is so minimal that the Criclytics Qualification Probability has rounded it up to zero. Chennai Super Kings are at top of the table and are placed comfortably not just to qualify but to finish in the Top 2. The battle is so irrelevant that the outcome holds no bearings on the fortunes of the other six teams. This is only Match 44. You hardly see such insignificant games with more than 12 matches left in the league phase. But that is the kind of season the two teams have had.
Hyderabad have not clicked and Chennai are flying. The Orange Army registered their second win of the season, and first of the UAE leg, in their previous outing. Jason Roy’s fifty suggests they have found a combination that suits the way they want to play their cricket but Chennai remains an uphill task for them. Such is the mismatch.
Roy adds fire to Hyderabad but Dhoni has the extinguisher
The way Hyderabad is shaped up, they are always in need of runs up top. With David Warner woefully out of form, the pressure, instead of getting soaked by the international stars was shifting to the middle-order composed largely of inexperienced Indian batters.
Roy made his Hyderabad debut against Rajasthan and scored a 42-ball 60. The impact was threefold. It got Hyderabad off to a quick start. It tapered the pressure off Kane Williamson. Most importantly, it prevented the middle-order from getting exposed too early.
Hence, Roy becomes crucial in Hyderabad’s plans. The unavailable Jonny Bairstow is the only other Hyderabad batsman to have an impressive strike rate in the Powerplay this season (167.4). All others - Warner, Williamson, Wriddhiman Saha, and Manish Pandey - have gone at less than 110.
A small chink in Roy’s repertoire gives Chennai Super Kings the upper hand in this battle. In his short IPL career, Roy averages only 18.2 against spin. He is known to struggle with pace off the ball on sluggish tracks and Sharjah has been the slowest wicket in this season with plenty of turn to offer. An impeccable captain in marshaling the spinners, Dhoni might line up Ravindra Jadeja early against Roy. We can also see Chennai play an extra spinner. This is exactly what Dhoni loves. A case for Imran Tahir replacing Sam Curran or Josh Hazlewood maybe? There is a good enough argument with the added weight of Roy’s average against leg-spin in IPL - 11 runs per dismissal.
An opportunity for Dhoni, Raina to regain form?
MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina’s batting form are the only misfiring artilleries in a side that is firing all guns blazing. In the UAE leg, Raina’s scores read 4, 17*, 11. For Dhoni, it is 3, 11*, 1. Both of them have a tremendous record against Hyderabad, primarily because of their one-dimensional pace attack which lacks a bowler to rush them.
In a forgettable season last year, Dhoni had both his best average (68), strike rate (138.8), and the highest score (47*) against Hyderabad. Raina averages 30.1 against Hyderabad while striking at 139.6. For him, the only obstacle is Rashid Khan who has dismissed him three times in IPL for 46 runs.
Facing Hyderabad is a great opportunity for Dhoni and Raina to hit form. However, they would like to bat up the order to give themselves a fair chance. Will Chennai tweak their batting order?
Rashid has aced Raina but he has not cracked the code against Chennai Super Kings.
Earlier, Shane Watson was his arch-nemesis in the Chennai camp but a majority of other batsmen have also negated him quite efficiently. Ambati Rayudu has never lost his wicket to Rashid. In fact, he holds the IPL record for most deliveries faced against Rashid without losing his wicket - 54. Similarly, Moeen Ali has a strike rate of 182 against Rashid, the second-highest for a batsman who has scored 30 runs or more against him in IPL. Ravindra Jadeja is another batsman who has never lost his wicket to this leg-spinner.
Rashid has been one of the few consistent performers for Hyderabad and it is tough to see them go past the hurdle of Chennai’s batting if he is neutralized.
Winning a game after five defeats, Hyderabad would like to continue with the same XI.
Jason Roy, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Kane Williamson (c), Priyam Garg, Abhishek Sharma, Jason Holder, Abdul Samad, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan, Siddarth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma
Chennai Super Kings
The only combination change Chennai can ponder is if they want to play Imran Tahir. In case they do play him, one amongst Sam Curran or Josh Hazlewood can make way. Dwayne Bravo’s comeback is unlikely as Chennai might not want to risk him for this fixture.
Faf du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Sam Curran, Josh Hazlewood/Imran Tahir