Sunrisers Hyderabad had started to pack their bags in anticipation of an unceremonious exit from IPL 2019. No team with just 12 points after the league phase had managed to qualify for the playoffs before, and the chances of Kolkata Knight Riders defeating Mumbai Indians and clinching the final spot were high.
But as KKR imploded in Mumbai with Robin Uthappa labouring to 40 off 47 balls batting first in a must-win match, Sunrisers were handed a surprise entry into the playoffs. Such has been the season this time that the bottom-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore finished on 11 points and Sunrisers qualified with 12.
It is up to Hyderabad to make the most of this slice of luck as they take on Delhi Capitals in the Eliminator in Vizag on Wednesday. Delhi enter the clash having won their last match against Rajasthan, while Sunrisers are here despite defeat to RCB.
Dhawan v Hyderabad
Delhi batting mainstay Shikhar Dhawan will be doubly motivated to make an impact. He will be up against his previous employer Sunrisers, who let him go before the season started after being their leading man at the top of the order for three straight years.
After an indifferent start to life at Delhi Capitals, the southpaw has settled into a rhythm and reeled off three successive fifties recently. He seems in good nick to make it count in a do-or-die clash.
Both teams enter the clash without some big names in the line-up. Delhi will have to make do without star fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who had carried the team’s campaign on his broad shoulders with 25 scalps. But his back injury means Delhi won’t have four overs of guaranteed control and wickets.
While Rabada is out due to injury, Sunrisers’ personnel woes were expected following the departure of smash-hit opening partners David Warner and Jonny Bairstow. With captain Kane Williamson not in the best of form and the middle order showing acute weakness, it’s not looking great for SRH.
The ACA-VDCA stadium hosted a T20 between India and Australia earlier in the year and it was hardly an ideal setting. India laboured to 126-7 on a sluggish pitch relished by both seamers and pacers.
Australia too struggled in reply, losing seven wickets of their own before reaching the target off the last ball of the game. While it was a close finish, a low scoring pitch is never good news for a T20 match.
The winner of the Eliminator will play the loser of the first Qualifier for the right to play in the final on Sunday.
Delhi Capitals: Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer (c), Rishabh Pant (wk), Colin Ingram, Axar Patel, Keemo Paul, Amit Mishra, Trent Boult, Ishant Sharma, Sandeep Lamichhane
SRH: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Martin Guptill, Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson (c), Vijay Shankar, Yusuf Pathan, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleen Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma
League position – 4
Matches – 14
Wins – 6
Losses – 8
While they might not be the most prolific of wicket-takers, Sunrisers’ bowling attack has been one of the most economical in the tournament. Between them, India seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan have bowled 306 dot balls over the course of the campaign which is a staggering number.
While Rashid and his Afghanistan counterpart Mohammad Nabi have maintained an economy-rate of around 6.50, Bhuvneshwar has gone at 7.61. The pacers such as Khaleel Ahmed and Sandeep Sharma have also conceded less than nine runs an over which is decent and this in turn has helped SRH tie down the rate of scoring with the ball.
It is a completely different story with the bat for Hyderabad with David Warner and Jonny Bairstow having bid goodbyes to the IPL. Together, the two openers contributed 1,137 runs over the course of the campaign with Warner alone chipping in with 692 runs.
With the duo no longer available for the business-end of the tournament, SRH have their work cut out in the batting department. Skipper Kane Williamson has struggled big time with the bat this year with just 128 runs to show from eight innings and as such, there are big question marks surrounding the side’s batting prowess heading into the playoffs.
It is not just about replacing Warner and Bairstow’s runs for SRH but also their explosiveness given that both batsmen maintained a strike-rate of over 140.
One silver lining for SRH with the bat has been the resurgence of Manish Pandey ever since he was promoted to No3 in the batting order. The right-hander has been in excellent form since his promotion with three half-centuries in his five most recent outings.
While Pandey has the opportunity to continue his rich vein of form, there is also a chance for New Zealand opening stalwart Martin Guptill to make a big impact in the absence of Warner and Bairstow.
Delighted with the form of Manish Pandey. Always rated him and he has shown himself and everyone else that when in form he is a matchwinner. But consistency is a tough beast to tame.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) May 2, 2019
Momentum. After flying high for much of their campaign, the wheels have started coming off for SRH at the worst time possible. Williamson’s men head into the playoff battle on the back of four defeats in five games which is not a good sign. Momentum is key in the business-end of the tournament and currently, SRH are up against it.
League position – 3
Matches – 14
Wins – 9
Losses – 5
Proven international performers have been key to Delhi’s strong run this season with Shikhar Dhawan and Kagiso Rabada playing their parts to guide an otherwise inexperienced squad to their first playoff appearance since 2012.
South African ace Rabada has been nothing short of sensational with the ball with the Purple Cap holder’s 25 wickets coming at a strike-rate of just 11.28. Dhawan has impressed with the bat after an indifferent start with the India opener nearing 500 runs in the edition on the back of five half-centuries.
It was this kind of experience that Delhi sorely lacked last season where their young squad showed only fleeting glimpses of their potential.
While there have been many factors for Delhi’s success this season, they have struggled at times to finish off games while chasing. This shortcoming comes mainly due to the inexperience of their young Indian core including Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw.
It was most evident in their early-season clash against Kings XI Punjab when they collapsed dramatically to lose seven wickets for just eight runs. There have been several other occasional where they have stumbled across the finish line and that has reflected in Delhi’s net run-rate which is the lowest of all four teams to have qualified for the playoffs.
It has been a highly disappointing individual campaign for young Prithvi Shaw after his breakthrough year in international cricket. The right-handed opener is averaging just above 20 with the bat in the ongoing campaign with just one half-century to show from 14 innings.
Shaw’s ability has never been in question and the youngster now has a chance to bounce back into form just when the team needs it the most.
Delhi will go into the playoff battle severely handicapped by the absence of Kagiso Rabada who has now returned home. Without the South African’s wicket-taking abilities, Delhi could really struggle in the pace department. They will now hope that Trent Boult can take over the mantle from Rabada but the Kiwi stalwart could be rusty having featured just three times over the course of the season.