Time to rise and shine

Omkar Paranjape
Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Chennai Super Kings, Sunrisers Hyderabad face off in qualifier 1 for a place in  the final

MUMBAI: The cliched analogy about a T20 game says, it’s a game of momentum. Going by that notion, the Sunrisers Hyderabad should not be even in the reckoning against the ever-formidable Chennai Super Kings.

The flip side to that however is, cricket matches aren’t won on paper or in the dressing room. It is that uncertainty that makes the contest between the Sunrisers Hyderabad and  Chennai Super Kings in the first qualifier such an interesting act.

The riveting contest at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday has a lot riding on it. Not just that the winner stays in Mumbai to play the finals and avoid extra miles to Kolkata to play Qualifier 2, the additional rest of about 72 hours than their to-be opponents in the finals is a major factor of consideration at the business end of the tournament.

In their final league game at their adopted home ground in Pune on Sunday, the yellow brigade rode on the back of Suresh Raina to register a five-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab. 

On the other hand, having already sealed their playoff spot with a victory on May 10 against Delhi Daredevils, the Sunrisers have been on a three-game losing run, of which two were last over affairs.

For CSK, Openers Ambati Rayudu and Shane Watson have performed brilliantly, accumulating 438 runs from 13 matches, while Suresh Raina, skipper Dhoni and all-rounder Deepak Chahar have been the backbone of CSK’s middle order.

With Shardul Thakur, Chahar and Dwayne Bravo doing their bit on the pace bowling front, Super Kings will be banking on spin twins Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja to deliver in the middle overs. Lungi Ngidi, too could turn out to be MSD’s trump card, which he likes to throw in the mix in crunch games.

In Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan, the Hyderabad based outfit have T20 white ball masters. In Siddharth Kaul, they have an able student and a quick learner, while Shakib-al-Hasan brought all his experience of thriving on slow Eden tracks to the two-paced surfaces at Hyderabad. Sandeep Sharma too, has chipped in and barely has given anything away.

Sunrisers have depended totally on their captain Kane Williamson, who has been in terrific form to rise to the number two slot in the leading run-getters’ list with 661 runs at just over 60 per game.

Only he and Shikhar Dhawan (437 runs), who took some time to get going, have shown consistency with the bat in contrast to their bowling attack which, barring the last few games, has been the talking point of the season.

For certain, teams have started finding their way around Sunrisers Hyderabad’s insanely good bowling attack. That it took a belligerent knock from Sunil Narine seems surprising for the West Indian surely doesn’t appear like someone this Sunrisers bowling attack would dread bowling to. 

As it turned out, he was and it might just be an eye opener to the other three teams in the play-offs.

In a tournament that has seen some excellent fielding, SRH have come up short. Whether it’s catching or stopping ones-and-twos, they lag behind the other teams in the playoffs and that might prove costly if they repeat the same mistakes in Qualifier 1.

Cricket often sees different and contrasting leadership styles. Both SRH and CSK have been blessed with cool and calm skippers in Kane Williamson and MS Dhoni respectively, who let their numbers do the talking. Tuesday will witness them go hammer and tongs for their quest for supremacy. As it turns out, it will be a battle which is likely to be decided by minute details, and the team that plays to that virtue is likely to stand out.

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