Third-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad and fourth-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore find themselves in the trickier end of the IPL playoffs position as the loser of their encounter gets eliminated from IPL 2020.
All hopes will be on survival when Virat Kohli-led RCB and David Warner’s SRH meet in the Eliminator, the third version of this particular South Indian derby, on Friday.
RCB got off to a flying start in the tournament with five wins in their first seven games, but are currently winless since thumping Kolkata Knight Riders in that low-scoring one-sided affair in October. Despite their poor run, thanks largely to other results, they find themselves in the playoffs.
SRH managed to win only three matches in the first half of their campaign, but seem to have found their rhythm back courtesy a consistent display from Wriddhiman Saha and some sensational performances from the bowlers. Bringing back Saha in the playing XI paid off for Hyderabad, with the wicketkeeper-batsman producing some match-winning displays.
And despite the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan has been effective in the death-overs in what has been a sensational season for the 29-year-old.
The winner of this match will play the loser of Qualifier 1 on Sunday.
Ahead of the much-awaited contest, we take a look at key battles that could determine the match:
Devdutt Padikkal vs Sandeep Sharma
There’s something common between Devdutt Padikkal and Sandeep Sharma in the sense that both of them have had a brilliant impact during the powerplay overs in the ongoing IPL.
Padikkal has been RCB’s top-scoring batsman this season with 472 runs, and has forged decent opening partnerships with Aaron Finch in the first half of the tournament and Joshua Philippe in the second. On the other hand, Sandeep had become only the second bowler to take 50 wickets in the powerplay overs in IPL after former pacer Zaheer Khan. This was during SRH’s game against Mumbai Indians, on Tuesday, which they comfortably won by 10 wickets.
Meanwhile, Padikkal has already notched up five half-centuries this season, and has got confident starts in most matches, which may help him in building momentum.
The last time the two sides met, Sandeep was in top form, scalping the crucial wickets of Padikkal and Kohli. If he gets early breakthroughs, it could prove to be game-changing, irrespective if his team is bowling first or second.
Virat Kohli vs T Natarajan
Undoubtedly, the IPL has helped SRH’s T Natarajan to evolve as a confident bowler. In a tournament like IPL, it’s the crucial game-changing moments that count, and Natarajan has struck exactly in those moments.
There was a time when doubts were raised over SRH's bowling, considering the absence of premier bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but Natarajan has lived up to those expectations, striking at the right time in the death overs with crucial blows. The left-arm pacer has played every match this season and has scalped 14 wickets so far. He also has the third-best economy rate in an innings (2.75 against RCB on 31 October).
Earlier in the season, Natarajan had got Kohli out for just 14 runs back in September. But, on his day, expect Kohli to rise to the occasion. However, if Kohli bats deep into the innings, expect a good death-over showdown with Natarajan.
AB de Villiers vs Rashid Khan
Rashid Khan has been a threat to every batsman in the IPL. And so has been AB de Villiers for bowlers.
De Villiers created problems for SRH bowlers when the two teams faced each other back in September, scoring 51 in a match where Devdutt Padikkal notched up his maiden IPL fifty.
Rashid Khan, too, will play a crucial role in the middle overs. So far in the tournament, he has done well to keep the opposition’s run-rate in check, and once more the Afghanistan spinner will hope to create some magic.
Rashid has notched up 19 wickets from 14 matches, and remains the most economical bowler (5.28) throughout the tournament. In the most recent match between the two sides on 31 October, Khan beat de Villiers on four consecutive deliveries, and the South African legend would like to make a statement or two tonight.
Wriddhiman Saha vs Navdeep Saini
Wriddhiman Saha has received a heart-warming welcome in the ongoing IPL. Featuring mostly in the second half of the tournament after playing a game in September, Saha made an instant impact as a replacement for Jonny Bairstow in the SRH top-order in their game against Delhi Capitals, scoring 87 runs in just 45 balls in October. That was just his second IPL game in a month, and now, heading to the all-important RCB clash, he has notched up 214 runs from four innings, thereby persuading the team management to have faith in him to fire.
He also forged an unbeaten 152 run stand with David Warner in their rocking 10-wicket win over MI, and could be a force to reckon with.
Navdeep Saini, on the other hand, has been the go-to pacer for Virat Kohli thanks to his deadly yorkers. He has played 12 matches and taken only six wickets, but half of his wickets tally has come against SRH.
RCB’s motive should be simple: Remove both Warner and Saha early, and momentum could be theirs. And for this, Saini could prove to be crucial in the powerplay overs, to keep SRH’s score in check.
Jason Holder vs RCB
Joining the SRH camp as a replacement for injured Mitchell Marsh, Jason Holder only played his first game of the season on 22 October against Rajasthan Royals, but ended that match with figures of 3/33. Since then, he has continued to consistently showcase brilliant spells with the ball, having scalped 10 wickets in just five games.
Holder can be a game-changer, not only with the ball but also with the bat, and he did hold his nerve with a match-winning cameo of 26 off just 10 balls against RCB when the two teams met in the low-scoring match on 31 October.
If the top and middle-order suffer an unexpected setback, it could be a task cut out for the experienced West Indian, who has the potential to finish off games for them.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
There are talks that the 2021 IPL will be featuring nine teams instead of eight and will go up to 10 teams by 2023, which has always been the BCCI's long-term plan.
It was Lad who had first given Rohit the opportunity to lead in school cricket and 'Hitman' rarely failed.
Mumbai Indians completely dominated the tournament with six of their batsmen scoring 250-plus runs.