Battling to stay alive in the play-offs race, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) will take on each other in match number 43 of IPL 2020 at Dubai on Sunday.
KXIP have recovered brilliantly after a disastrous first half, winning their last three games in a row. They have beaten top sides like Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi with great conviction.
As for SRH, they registered a timely eight-wicket victory over Rajasthan Royals in their previous encounter to somehow stay afloat in IPL 2020 after a string of disappointing performances.
Both KXIP and SRH have eight points from 10 games so far, and will need to win all their remaining four games from this point to ensure qualification for the play-offs.
Head-to-head, SRH have a massive 11-4 lead over KXIP. As the teams come face to face again, let’s take a look at three player battles in the offing.
#1. David Warner vs Mohammad Shami
Sunrisers Hyderabad’s most prolific batsman versus Kings XI Punjab’s most versatile bowler -- the David Warner vs Mohammed Shami tussle can very much set the tone of the innings and, depending on the situation, the match as well.
Warner may have struggled against his nemesis Jofra Archer in the game against Rajasthan Royals, but has been in decent run-making form otherwise. He has 335 runs from 10 games, but his strike rate is on the lower side at 124.07. Warner needs to start taking command.
Considering the significance of the Warner-Shami battle, both star performers will seek to outdo each other. Shami has excelled with the ball, claiming 16 wickets in 10 matches at a strike rate of 14.50. Till a few games back, he was leaking a lot of runs at the death. But now, he seems to have developed the confidence to bowl the yorker consistently.
Shami must try the delivery against Warner as well. If it comes off, KXIP could have a major scalp to their name. The short ball hasn’t worked for Shami in this IPL, but he keeps trying it. Will he take a chance against Warner as well?
#2. Nicholas Pooran vs Rashid Khan
While openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal have been KXIP’s top two run-getters with the bat this season so far, the fact that Punjab are still alive in IPL 2020 has a lot to do with Nicholas Pooran’s aggressive batting. He has smacked 295 runs in 10 games at an exceptional strike rate of 183.22 with two fifties.
Pooran’s clean hitting has won Punjab a couple of games, including the most recent one against Delhi Capitals. With Rahul and Agarwal falling early, Pooran took it upon himself to guide the team home with a flamboyant 53 from 28 balls.
While Pooran has played some fantastic knocks, at the same time he has also hit some atrocious strokes to throw his wicket away. This is one weakness in the dynamic left-hander’s game that SRH leggie Rashid Khan would be keen to exploit.
Rashid has had an impressive tournament, but his efforts have been undone due to some poor performances by the other bowlers. He would be keen to add to his 12 wickets when SRH take on KXIP. If he can force Pooran into a false stroke, Rashid can give Hyderabad a major advantage.
#3. Manish Pandey vs Murugan Ashwin
Although stats point to the fact that Manish Pandey has 295 runs to his name in 10 matches at a strike rate of 134.70, the fact is that Pandey’s IPL 2020 journey has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. He has played some atrocious slogs to throw his wicket away, and despite being a renowned fielder, has dropped catches as well.
Against Rajasthan Royals in the previous game, though, Pandey displayed his true potential. His unbeaten 83 from 47 balls, with eight sixes, would hardly surprise those who are aware of his talent. SRH though need more of the same from Pandey considering his experience.
For KXIP, leggie Murugan Ashwin’s inclusion in the playing eleven has added teeth to their bowling attack. In five matches, Ashwin has already claimed seven wickets at a strike rate of 13.28. He has got the variations to trouble star batsmen, and has picked up the key scalps of Aaron Finch and Shreyas Iyer in recent wins against Bangalore and Delhi.
Ashwin’s economy rate of 7.80 has also enabled KXIP to keep the opposition run-rate under check. Batting in the middle-overs, Pandey will need to break the Ashwin stranglehold so that the SRH innings doesn’t get stuck. He will be confident no doubt, but needs to guard himself against complacency, which has led to his downfall in the past.