Powerful top-order, shaky middle-order, inconsistent bowling unit – Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab tick all three boxes and to no one’s surprise they are also the ones languishing at the bottom half of the IPL 2020 points table. All the reasons why the KXIP vs SRH encounter on Thursday in Dubai is expected to be a battle of equals.
With a hat-trick of losses, KXIP are right at the bottom with only two points in five matches. SRH, are not in great position either. They are at No.six in the points table with only two wins in the tournament so far.
The flip side of having similar problems with bowling and batting is that their strengths are also same. For KXIP, the opening combination of Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul is easily the best and most consistent one of this year’s IPL and in SRH’s strength lies in their dynamic top three of Jonny Bairstow, David Warner and Kane Williamson.
KL Rahul has been in scintillating form this year, scoring two fifties and a century, while Mayank Agarwal also has a half-century and a ton to his credit. The two have done the heavy-lifting for the team.
Nicholas Pooran has also looked sharp but Glenn Maxwell is yet to fire.
But despite the solid batting performances, KXIP have been unable to win because of their disappointing bowling attack. Apart from Mohammed Shami, all the other bowlers have failed to take wickets, conceding far too many runs in death overs.
They were unable to defend 223 against Rajasthan. In their 10-wicket loss in the previous outing, KXIP bowlers were at their wits end as Chennai Super Kings overhauled a 178-run target with 14 balls and 10 wickets to spare.
And come Thursday, Sunrisers, who are blessed with a strong top order comprising Jonny Bairstow, David Warner, Manish Pandey and Kane Williamson, will look to exploit a low-on-confidence KXIP’s bowling unit.
Warner and his men were handed a 34-run defeat by the Mumbai Indians on Sunday.
Having lost their opening two games due to the middle order, Sunrisers addressed the issue by bringing in Williamson to the playing XI at the expense of an all-round option.
Skipper Warner backed youngsters Abhishek Sharma and Abdul Samad to fill in for the fifth bowler and the risk paid off as the former champions won two games on the trot.
However, the Orange Army was dealt a massive blow when senior paacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was ruled out of the tournament with a thigh muscle injury.
In Bhuvneshwar’s absence, Sunrisers struggled with their bowling. Apart from T Natarajan, pacers Sandeep Sharma and Siddarth Kaul leaked runs.
Samad was also expensive, which led Warner to turn to Williamson to bowl two overs of off-spin against Mumbai.
Going ahead, there will be added pressure on yorker specialist Natarajan and star spinner Rashid Khan.
Sunrisers face the conundrum of either providing stability in the middle order or strengthening their bowling attack.
They have the option of playing experienced Afghan all-rounder Mohammad Nabi or West Indies’ Fabian Allen but that would mean Willamson will have to sit out.
(With PTI inputs)