Thursday, April 21, 2016
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
Shikhar Dhawan has scores of 2,6,8 in his last three IPL innings © BCCI
It’s a clash between the toppers and the stragglers. With three successful chases in as many matches, Gujarat Lions have established themselves as the early pace-setters. Aaron Finch has been Lions’ key man with three half-centuries and the manner in which he has got them – at a strike rate close to 140 – has taken a lot of pressure off Brendon McCullum. Having hurt his hamstring during the last-ball thriller against Mumbai Indians, Finch is an uncertain starter for Thursday’s match against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Dinesh Karthik, who hasn’t capitalised on his chances, and Suresh Raina, who continues to struggle against short balls, need to step up. That Lions still top the table can be put down to Finch’s authority. It was their batting depth which helped them prevail in the only game they were stretched, against Mumbai.
A strong core of Indian bowlers, led by Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni, has given them the luxury of playing two overseas batsmen. That Dale Steyn is yet to get a look-in is perhaps because of how well the local bowlers have performed. Pravin Tambe and Shadab Jakati, veterans in the domestic scene, have kept a lid on the scoring, while Dwayne Bravo’s mix of slow-dipping yorkers and bouncers in the end overs have been effective.
Sunrisers, on the other hand, don’t have the wealth of options, and are desperately waiting to have Yuvraj Singh and Kane Williamson match-ready. Until then, they need to find ways to complement David Warner, who has been in rip-roaring form. His unbeaten 90 that gave Sunrisers their first win, against Mumbai, was a T20 masterclass. Eoin Morgan has been used as a floater, although his utility at No. 3 could be worth pondering.
Ashish Nehra’s absence due to a groin injury has put the spotlight on Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Barinder Sran. The pair stepped up and finished with 4 for 45 in eight overs between them in their seven-wicket win on Monday. Mustafizur Rahman’s cutters have been difficult to negotiate.
In the spotlight
James Faulkner has been reserved for the end overs by Raina, but the allrounder hasn’t delivered. Combined figures of 10-0-94-1 in three matches indicate his bowling form that has been masked by Lions’ batting.
In a tournament that has largely been about opening partnerships, Shikhar Dhawan’s form is a worry for Sunrisers. He has managed just 16 runs in three innings, and has struggled against genuine swing bowling. Against Kolkata Knight Riders, an attempted slash against Morne Morkel’s away-swinger resulted in him being caught behind. In the next game, he reacted late to Tim Southee’s inswinging yorker and was bowled.
Ravindra Jadeja has rejoined the squad after a short break for his wedding, and is expected to slot back into the XI. With Dhawal Kulkarni performing well in his first outing, batsman Akshdeep Nath could make way for the allrounder.
Gujarat Lions: (probable) 1 Aaron Finch 2 Brendon McCullum 3 Suresh Raina (capt) 4 Dinesh Karthik 5 Dwayne Bravo 6 Ravindra Jadeja 7 James Faulkner 8 Praveen Kumar 9 Dhawal Kulkarni 10 Shadab Jakati 11 Pravin Tambe
Sunrisers are unlikely to make any change to the line-up that beat Mumbai Indians at home on Monday.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: (probable) 1 David Warner 2 Shikhar Dhawan 3 Moises Henriques 4 Naman Ojha 5 Deepak Hooda 6 Eoin Morgan 7 Ashish Reddy 8 Bipul Sharma 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar 10 Mustafizur Rahman 11 Barinder Sran
Pitch and conditions
The surface prepared for Rajkot’s inaugural IPL game last week had an odd splattering of grass. The good length area from one end was brown, while the ball skidded on nicely at the other end. After the game, Faf du Plessis felt batting against the old ball, especially against spin, was tough as the surface wore out significantly. Traditionally, Rajkot is known to be a flat batting deck irrespective of the format. Dew is unlikely to be a factor.
Stats and trivia
- Aaron Finch averages 61.83 while chasing in T20s in 2016. He has won three successive Man-of-the-Match awards and is just one away from an IPL record.
- Mustafizur Rahman is Sunrisers’ least economical bowler, conceding an average of 7.25 per over in three matches. Three out of his four wickets have come between overs 16-20.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo