With the Sunrisers Hyderabad hitting the ground running in the opening encounter of IPL 2017, and the Gujarat Lions facing an uphill task after an embarrassing home defeat to the Kolkata Knight Riders, the situation in both the camps could not be any more different.
While the current holders will look to extend their winning run in a bid to defend the IPL title, Gujarat Lions will need to pull up their socks and put up a much better performance than their last game.
Despite reaching the knockout stages last year, the Gujarat Lions lost both their games to end the tournament on a sour note. Missing all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja in their opening game, the Lions suffered as their score was easily overcome by Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn, who were in devastating touch.
Still, with power hitters such as Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith in the ranks, Gujarat Lions have the staffing to bounce back from a bad start.
#1 Brendon McCullum vs Bhuvneshwar Kumar
This will be a battle to watch out for. One of the legends of T20 cricket facing up to last year’s purple cap holder. While Brendon McCullum might have retired from international cricket, he can still easily produce a devastating innings against any opposition.
McCullum scored 35 runs off 24 balls in Gujarat’s first match and will be hoping to give his side a better start this time around. The Sunrisers might want to pit him against the swing of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. After a disappointing loss at Rajkot, the Kiwi might want to take on the medium pace of Bhuvi.
#2 David Warner vs Praveen Kumar
A similar match up to the first, we might see the aggressive David Warner facing the gentle medium pace of Praveen Kumar. Despite being out of the reckoning for a place in the national side, Praveen Kumar has proven his sincerity and perseverance by continuing to toil hard and produce results – he was third on the list of bowlers with most dot balls in IPL 2016.
However, trying to keep David Warner quiet might be a different ball game. Warner hasn’t been in the best of form through the Test series against India and fell cheaply in the opening game. That will only motivate him further to start contributing to the team’s cause as he did last year.
#3 Moises Henriques vs Dwayne Smith
Coming off a match-winning innings in the first game, Henriques will look to keep contributing whether with the bat or with the ball. Coming in behind the explosive opening pair of Warner and Shikhar Dhawan, Henriques might once again have to help his team navigate through the middle overs without losing too much steam.
He did extremely well in the opening game against some mediocre bowling and fielding, but he will need all his experience against the wily Dwayne Smith. Smith was carted for 23 runs in the only over he bowled in Rajkot. He will definitely want to put it in the past and produce a winning spell or an entertaining innings to take his team over the line.
#4 Suresh Raina vs Rashid Khan
Rashid Khan was mighty impressive in the first game and he will have to prove that he belongs on this stage by performing consistently. Here, he will come up against one of the best players of spin in Suresh Raina. The Gujarat Lions skipper got a few chances in the last game and made the most of them, scoring an invaluable 68.
However, it turned out to be far from enough through the course of the night. No one will be more eager to set things right than the skipper himself, who will be willing to take on the leg spin of Rashid Khan. Raina will not be afraid to go after the teenage Afghan, and he might be eyeing the cover region.