The game, the contest, and the plot - there has rarely been a match in the front end of the Indian Premier League when both teams have a lot to prove to their detractors and in extension, to themselves as well. Punjab Kings scampered home by a whisker in the opening encounter against Rajasthan Royals whereas Sunrisers Hyderabad are still searching for their perfect XI after facing three consecutive losses.
Wednesday’s afternoon encounter will naturally have a lot riding on it, for it is the nature of the contest that will decide the overarching theme of the campaign. As the KL Rahul-led side becomes the first team to change their bubble, taking their campaign from Mumbai to Chennai, one can only hope for a change in luck that has deserted them in the last two games.
Clearly, the contrast hasn’t synchronized much for Sunrisers Hyderabad either, whose inefficient middle-order posed a dire question for David Warner’s troupe. Barring Abdul Samad, the Indian core has failed in the pursuit, leaving the opening duo to take the major workload. It doesn’t work in any team and it hasn’t worked for Sunrisers Hyderabad. On the other hand, Rashid Khan has been magnificent as ever but there is no sustained effort from the other end, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar being exactly at the opposite end of what made his comeback in the last England series sweeter.
The Kane answer to SRH's middle-order conundrum
The average first innings score at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai in the last three years is 154 with the batting first team winning 64.29% of games. For all the talk about Chennai being an extremely spin-friendly wicket is also not right, with pacers picking 50.3% wickets with spinners accounting for 49.7% of wickets. Thus the role of middle-order batting - essentially against the spinners - becomes a really important proposition every team will have to muster.
However, as a matter of fact, Sunrisers Hyderabad are the second-worst performing middle-order after Mumbai Indians, with an Avg Runs/Wkt ratio of 15.1 and a run-rate of 7.1. The middle-order is not only inexperienced but also consists of batters who are not aggressive by trade, thus transferring further pressure on David Warner and Jonny Bairstow.
That brings Kane Williamson to the picture who was absent for the first three games with an injury. The Kiwi man has recovered and is available for selection, thus he might slot into the middle-order straight away. His average of 46.1 at the No.4 position is the best for him in the IPL and he can don the same role once again in this edition. He is also one of the finest players of spin bowling, averaging 53.5 at an SR of 120. With Samad around him, he can afford to play his natural game and buckle down the pressure a fair bit.
Replace Meredith with Bishnoi?
For Punjab Kings, the likes of Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami have done well, but the same can’t be said about their Aussie recruits Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith who are two of their most expensive players this season. Thus as the caravan moves to Chennai, where spinners and pacers have equal contributions in recent time, maybe drafting in Ravi Bishnoi will be a more logical idea. Bishnoi has an average of 10.5 at an ER of 6 against SRH which is far better than what Murugan Ashwin does, which makes it a valid point to consider for the combination of Tom Moody and Trevor Bayliss.
Question of using Pooran the right way
In the IPL 2021 so far, Nicholas Pooran has the highest score of 9 in three matches with a couple of ducks. It has been a complete contrast from his last year’s heroics when Pooran batted with a lot of freedom, ending with 208 runs at an SR of 169.71. The most plausible explanation for the downfall can be attributed to his entry point having come in at 17.3 and 16.2 on two occasions and in the fifth over during the batting debacle vs CSK.
In IPL 2020, he came out to bat before the 15th over a crazy 11 times out of 14 inns, where he had five 30+ scores with four coming at an SR of over 150. Furthermore, the Trinidadian is one of the finest hitters of spin bowling, having the second-highest SR (167) among batsmen with 200+ runs against spin. If he can be used properly, there is a chance Punjab Kings can maximize their potential at the Chepauk.
Punjab Kings: KL Rahul (c & wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Deepak Hooda, Shahrukh Khan, Jhye Richardson, Jalaj Saxena, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Manish Pandey, Virat Singh, Vijay Shankar, Abhishek Sharma, Abdul Samad, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Khaleel Ahmed