Opposite sides of the spectrum. The side with four wins in five games, Chennai Super Kings will take on the side with only one win to show for their efforts in as many games, Sunrisers Hyderabad, in Match 23 of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021. Prior to Match 22, the two teams were placed at the first and the last spot on the points table.
However, Hyderabad come into the contest carrying a hint of form. After three defeats, they haven’t lost their last two games, in the 40-over regulation play at least. They defeated Punjab and played a tie against the in-form Delhi before losing the Super Over. They would carry some confidence from that and believe they are slowly coming back on track. Chennai, in the other camp, have four wins in a row to boost their confidence.
What does Kotla have in store?
The IPL caravan moves to Delhi and this will be the first match at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium. It has been a low-scoring ground for most of its IPL history.
Assuming it won’t change much, Chennai would be happy to head to Delhi in home-like conditions if not their home - the Chepauk stadium. It makes MS Dhoni even more dangerous, not as a player but with his brain as a captain, through which he changed the course of a couple of matches in Mumbai.
For Hyderabad, things won’t change much as they move from one sluggish track to another. They couldn’t acclimatize themselves to Chennai despite suitable conditions for their team combination but will hope a change in venue brings new fortunes. Although, their bowlers have been in decent form, it is tough to envisage how their batsmen turn things around.
The middle-order muddle
Saying that Hyderabad’s middle-order has struggled will be an understatement. Comprised mostly of young Indian batsmen, they have faltered consistently after their top three batsmen which has cost them not one but four games thus far. The only game they have won was when Jonny Bairstow and Kane Williamson saw the chase through without letting the opposition get into their middle-order.
Their strike rate against spin in the middle falls further and the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Imran Tahir will be licking their lips.
Will the absence of an enforcer in the middle-order pave the way for Manish Pandey’s comeback? "It depends on the selectors, it was a harsh call as per my opinion," Warner said regarding the Pandey situation post Hyderabad’s previous game.
Warner and Hyderabad’s performance have always intertwined. Often their major contributor with the bat, Warner has struggled to get going this year.
His average of 27.2 is the least in an IPL season since 2011 and a strike-rate of 113.3 is the lowest ever. Twice, he has been run out, misjudging a single. With a top-heavy line-up, Warner’s returns become indispensable. Against Chennai, Warner averages 30.1, his least against any currently active IPL side.
At present, Hyderabad cannot afford to lose an early wicket. Both Bairstow and Williamson are amongst the runs and Warner remains to be the only missing piece in the jigsaw to cover for their brittle middle-order.
Contrasting fortunes for Chennai at the top
Chennai were poor at the top of their batting but sensing the need of the hour, they have recovered well. After Powerplay scores of 33 for two and 32 for one in the first two games, Chennai added 46 runs within the first six overs, for the loss of two wickets. In the last two games, the opening pair of Faf du Plessis and Ruturaj Gaikwad have been unseparated - putting 54 and 51 runs respectively.
Du Plessis has been the key with his conspicuous effort to clear the boundary, batting with a strike-rate of 147 in the Powerplay. In comparison, Gaikwad’s strike-rate is only 89. In any case, Chennai will be happy with rich returns at the top. On a pitch which slows down with time, it will be crucial to score runs at the top on the small-ish field of Kotla.
CSK: Faf du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Moeen Ali, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Sam Curran, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir
SRH: David Warner (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Abhishek Sharma, Rashid Khan, Jagadeesha Suchith, Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed