Can Sunrisers sort out their middle-order issues?

3:00 AM ET

  • The Preview by Varun Shetty

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Sunrisers Hyderabad have the reputation of being a model franchise. They also possess a middle order that has long had the reputation of being their weakest link. Heading into their next fixture against Kings XI Punjab at Mohali, these two dimensions will be in focus: will the franchise’s ethos, built on balance and positivity, help them come back from a humiliating 40-run defeat chasing 137, like it has in the past? Or will we see a more deadpan reaction, a reshuffle and fortification of the batting beyond their blockbuster opening pair? They’re close to the halfway point of seven matches in the season, the fixtures around which the tone for the final stages is set – that frenzied, volatile period during which certain teams specialise in sneaking in and rattling the favourites.

Kings XI have often been that team in the IPL, but have begun this season looking much better than a late-doors spoilsport. They have six points from five games, but have only really been below-par on one occasion, when they doled out schoolboy errors to lose by 28 runs to Kolkata Knight Riders.

Both teams have the same number of points in the same number of games, and are both coming in after losses. Are Kings XI overachieving? Are Sunrisers underachieving? That assessment will have to wait till after this game, which will divide the table into an eight-point chunk and a six-point chunk.

Previous meeting

When they last met, Sunrisers’ top order failed and a Manish Pandey fifty took them to 132 for 6. Ankit Rajpoot took 5 for 14, and was Man of the Match, but his individual effort was overshadowed by Sunrisers collective bowling effort as Kings XI lost by 13 runs.

Likely XIs

Kings XI Punjab 1 KL Rahul (wk), 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Mayank Agarwal, 4 Sarfaraz Khan, 5 David Miller, 6 Mandeep Singh, 7 Sam Curran, 8 R Ashwin (capt), 9 M Ashwin, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman/Hardus Viljoen/Andrew Tye

Sunrisers Hyderabad 1 David Warner, 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Vijay Shankar, 4 Manish Pandey/Ricky Bhui, 5 Yusuf Pathan, 6 Deepak Hooda, 7 Mohammad Nabi, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar (capt), 10 Sandeep Sharma, 11 Siddarth Kaul

Strategy punt

  • R Ashwin likes bowling in the Powerplay, especially to left-handers. This is unlikely to change despite David Warner’s excellent record in Powerplays against spin – only one dismissal since 2016. However, if he’s paired with Sam Curran with the new ball, they could cause trouble to both openers. Warner averages 30 – his lowest – and has been out five times to left-arm seamers in the phase, while Bairstow has only 39 runs off 36 balls against spin.

  • Manish Pandey is among the highest-paid players at Sunrisers and has been given a long rope by the management, as one of their elite domestic players. But his form has been on the decline since the start of 2018 and they could be well-served by giving him some time off.

  • Rashid Khan has taken four wickets in five games, a below-par strike-rate for him. Sunrisers could get more wickets from him by leaving some of his overs for the slog overs where batsmen don’t have the luxury of playing him out. All his wickets this season have come in the 16-20 overs phase.

Stats that matter

  • Chris Gayle has fallen four times in eight innings to Sandeep Sharma and has only managed a strike rate of 107.4 against the swing bowler.

  • Sunrisers’ middle order (4-6) has contributed less than half the runs as the top order (1-3) since the start of IPL 2018; that’s 26.4% in comparison to 60.52%.

  • Kings XI have been the quickest-scoring team in the middle overs this season – they strike at 9.1 per over between overs 7 and 15, whereas Sunrisers score at 8.2. Both of them have scored at 9.4 in the slog overs, but Sunrisers have been far ahead of Kings XI’s 7.4 in the Powerplay with 9.4.

  • For batsmen facing at least 250 balls, Manish Pandey has the worst average – 22.78 – and boundary rate – 10.3 balls per boundary – since IPL 2018.

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