Sunrisers Hyderabad and Gujarat Lions will clash at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad after contrasting starts to their IPL 10 campaigns. While Sunrisers brushed aside Royal Challengers Bangalore in the tournament opener, Gujarat Lions were hammered by an IPL record opening stand between Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn.
Lions' bowling attack sans Jadeja and Bravo looked pedestrian and the bat that did a lot of talking in the Big Bash League rose to prominence in the IPL. Lynn was unstoppable and Raina looked clueless against his breathtaking attack. They can't afford another slip-up early in the tournament.
Sunrisers, on the other hand, could not have asked for an easier start to their tournament. Bangalore had de Villiers and Kohli missing and the Hyderabad franchise walked all over them. They play Gujarat Lions, who are missing two of their premier all-rounders, next and unless a major hiccup happens, they should win the game. Here are five keys to the match:
#1 With the bat
Sunrisers have always relied on Warner and Dhawan to give them electric starts. They did not need Warner in the first game but they cannot always depend on Yuvraj or Henriques to bail them out.
For Sunrisers to win, Warner will have to go hammer and tongs at the start before at least one of Yuvraj, Henriques and Hooda adds the finishing touches. Dhawan looked in sublime touch in the Deodhar Trophy and the first game but with Gujarat Lions having good opening bowlers in Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni, Dhawan cannot be trusted.
Gujarat Lions have a tough task to bat against one of the best attacks in the IPL (even without Mustafizur Rehman). To their credit, they scored 183 against another decent bowling attack, Kolkata Knight Riders.
For them to win, one of their openers has to bat along with Raina or Karthik till the 12th over at least. That would also mean combating the likes of Rashid Khan and Moises Henriques in the middle overs. Jason Roy showed signs of dominating for England against India in the T20s recently and he might be the trump card against Bhuvneshwar and Nehra.
If Roy can get Gujarat to a rollicking start, they have enough firepower in Finch, Raina, Karthik and Dwyane Smith to take them to a good score.
#2 With the ball
Gujarat Lions would have gone back to the drawing board after their bowling came a cropper against Kolkata. They lacked confidence and despite the presence of two domestic veteran seamers, Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni, they looked shoddy.
Their spin attack of Shadab Jakati and Shivil Kaushik did not have the control to subdue Lynn and Gambhir. They might want to retain Kaushik against Sunrisers, who do not exactly boast of exceptional players of spin. But Jakati needs to go.
They can think of giving James Faulkner a go ahead of one of Dwyane Smith or Aaron Finch, especially since both are batting out of position. Faulkner's slower variations could be needed against a power-packed batting line-up.
Sunrisers will rely on Ashish Nehra and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to start off well with the new ball. Nehra looked a tad rusty in the opener but a few overs in the nets should set that straight.
Ben Cutting adds a different dimension to their bowling attack with his lengths. Henriques and Rashid Khan are their stiflers. These two will look for the big wickets in the middle overs and also contain the scoring rate with their variations.
Hooda or Yuvraj could chip in if one of the bowlers has an off day. Sunrisers possess a complete bowling attack and it looks unlikely that they would run out of plans even if two of their top five bowlers get hit.
Sunrisers know that they need to target Lions' top four of Roy, McCullum, Raina and Karthik. They might go for a gamble and open the attack with Rashid Khan against McCullum. The Kiwi has never been comfortable against leg-spinners and the young Afghan bowler has bowled with the new ball before.
They need to contain Raina and Karthik though and Ben Cutting might be the key here. The Australian hits the deck hard and could generate disconcerting bounce which is a weakness for Raina. Karthik also tends to play in the air against short balls and this might be the way to dismiss them both.
For Gujarat, containing Warner, Yuvraj and Henriques will be the utmost priority. In the absence of Jadeja, they need a spinner who can bamboozle the Hyderabad batting. The hosts do not have batsmen extremely comfortable against spin and this is where their weakness lies. Unfortunately, Lions have only Kaushik, a mystery spinner, at their disposal. But if they use him wisely and bring in Faulkner to do the Bravo-job, Sunrisers could have a hard time.
The X-factor for Sunrisers Hyderabad is undoubtedly their little leggie, Rashid Khan. The Afghanistan superstar bowled well in the first game and having settled his nerves, should bring out his best soon. His T20 average of 13 is mind boggling as is his maturity as a leg-spinner at this age.
Rashid could well be the game-changer in this match-up at Hyderabad. Provided he keeps the long hops away, Lions' top order comprising McCullum, Roy, Finch and Dwyane Smith will struggle against him.
Gujarat Lions need to churn out a win somehow and their major hope for that lies in Jason Roy. The England opener looked at ease in the ODIs in India, smashing three half-centuries in three matches and if he can get Gujarat rolling, Sunrisers will need to revert to their Plan B. Roy looked deadly in the BBL and PSL as well and is quickly turning into a reliable T20 player. With four hundreds in the format in his career, Roy is the X-factor for the Lions.
#5 The weak link
David Warner-led Sunrisers have little to no weak links especially after their sensational 2016 campaign and the tournament opener two days back. But they aren't invincible and their top order does lack consistency if Lions manage to get past Warner early. The soft middle-order will be something that the Lions will be targeting but it remains to be seen if they have the quality in their bowling line-up to really have a crack.
Gujarat Lions, unlike Sunrisers, have a powerful top 6, all of whom are capable of taking the game away from the opposition. Their weakness is undoubtedly their bowling, which was pathetic against Kolkata. Sunrisers have the batsmen to capitalise on their mediocre bowling attack but they should be wary of complacency. Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni and James Faulkner (provided he plays) are good T20 bowlers and one off day is not the be all and end all.