Even after the completion of 54 games in the 8th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), two playoff spots are up for grabs, with three teams – Mumbai Indians (MI), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) – vying for that second, third and fourth places in the IPL points table.
From Mumbai’s perspective, the equation is straightforward: win against the Sunrisers and you are guaranteed a spot in the IPL playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
The visitors, though, have a massive proposition in front of them, as the hosts were quite unlucky to lose against the Royal Challengers on Friday and are a vastly improved unit since the last time these sides met at the Wankhede Stadium.
The Indians, on their own, have done well to be in fifth place on the points table, after losing their first four games and looking absolutely clueless as a unit.
It has been great recovery from both these teams that will look to knock each other out of the competition when they face off at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad tonight. Which side will prevail, playing their best cricket under such extreme pressure? Read on…
This South-Indian franchise has a chance of making it to the playoffs for the second time in their history since the change in ownership prior to the start of the 2013 season.
This season, in particular, the Sunrisers have played an eccentric brand of cricket under the leadership of David Warner, who, with 556 runs to his name, is the leading run-scorer in this edition of the IPL.
The Australian left-hander has got his side off to many a quick start at the top of the order, along with Shikhar Dhawan, who himself has scored over 350 runs.
However, Sunrisers were all about their openers, and the rest of that batting lineup didn’t deliver, for much of the first half of their campaign.
Things, however, have turned around for the good and the injection of Moises Henriques in that No.3 position has paid rich dividends.
The New South Wales all-rounder has got runs (276 in just 8 innings) with the bat, and accrued 11 wickets, as well, averaging more than 1 wicket-per-game in his 8 outings for SRH.
Eoin Morgan has come in place of fellow countryman Ravi Bopara, featuring in most of his side’s games in the second half of the ongoing season.
His inclusion in the playing XI has added more firepower to the Sunrisers’ batting lineup, but the Irish-born batsman would have wanted to contribute more than one 50+ score he has managed in the tournament so far.
The aforementioned quartet has to come good with the bat tonight, if their side is to pip Mumbai and march onto the IPL playoffs for the second time in their history.
The SRH bowling attack has been spearheaded by Bhuvneshwar Kumar who, with 18 wickets to his name, is fourth on the list of contenders for the Purple Cap in this year’s Pepsi IPL.
It has been a bit tricky for Sunrisers in selecting one amongst Trent Boult and Dale Steyn, who has played in just 5 games this season while the New Zealander has featured in 7 of the 13 SRH games so far.
For tonight, however, Steyn will maintain his place in the playing XI, as Boult has joined with the national squad in England ahead of the Test series that begins at the Lord’s on the 21st of May.
The likes of Praveen Kumar and Karn Sharma have bowled to the best of their abilities, picking 7 and 9 wickets respectively.
Going into tonight’s game, as aforementioned, their batting lineup has to come good. They would relish batting first if the opportunity comes along too, as 6 of their 7 victories in the tournament have come while they have put a total on the board.
Mumbai are a dangerous side to play against, especially with Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya striking form just at the right moment in their side’s nail-biting victory against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). However, when Sunrisers bowl, early wickets are going to be the key to causing problems in the MI ranks.
The Indians’ season has in many ways been akin to the Sunrisers’, but they have looked a better all-round side since they got their act together and started to win games consistently.
The openers – Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons – deserve great credit for the kind of starts they have rendered Mumbai over the last 6-7 games, with the left-hander in particular scoring quick runs while Simmons has taken his time to settle down and play a long innings.
In the MI middle-order, Ambati Rayudu has shone as a batsman during the second half of the season, which has seen him play many a match-winning knock against the likes of Delhi Daredevils (DD), Rajasthan Royals (RR) and the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) (at the MA Chidambaram Stadium).
Further down the batting order, Pandya has played that ‘aggressor role’ to perfection in the latter stages of his side’s innings; he has shown a good head on his shoulders, too.
Rohit Sharma has disappointed with the bat since scoring that magnificent 98* against the Knight Riders in the season opener at the Eden Gardens. He will look to come good tonight and find some form before the playoffs if Mumbai do get there.
Pollard had a mighty important role to play, both with the bat and ball, in his side’s last game and will be a confident man going into tonight’s game.
Such a batting line-up will hold Mumbai in good stead against the Sunrisers.
MI’s bowling attack has had a mixed bag throughout this IPL, but they have delivered results for their side whenever needed.
Lasith Malinga, after being woefully out of form early on in the campaign, has come back strongly and led the MI attack like he has done over the years.
He has been well complemented by Mitchell McClenaghan who, with 11 wickets from 9 games, has added more muscle to the Mumbai bowling attack that was taken to the cleaners by the likes of Super Kings, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Knight Riders during that four-game win-less run at the very beginning of this season.
Harbhajan Singh and Jagadeesha Suchith have done reasonably well, though the Turbanator has not been consistent and failed to bowl to his reputation on many an occasion this season.
Suchith, the left-arm spinner from Karnataka, has shown good maturity, particularly while bowling in the powerplay overs where Rohit has sought to use him for two overs, at least.
Vinay Kumar has featured in 10 of his side’s 13 games, but has been the weak link of this attack, picking up a mere four wickets and conceding close to 8.50 runs per over.
Going into tonight’s game, the Indians will be relatively confident of upstaging the hosts and making it to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
They, however, need to remind themselves that things aren’t going to be easy against a Hyderabad side packed with stroke-makers, who will hold the key to their side’s chances of winning this game.
Like the Sunrisers, Mumbai will rely on their batsman to rise up to the plate and deliver in a crunch game like this.
We should be in for a very competitive game of T20 cricket, with the visitors starting as favourites to make their way into the playoffs.
No disrespect to the SRH, whose strength lies in their batting and the top order, led by Warner, has to come good if the hosts are to pose serious problems for Mumbai.
The pitch at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium is a very good one to bat on, and therefore, whichever bowling attack comes out on top will most likely win it for their side.