IPL 9: Sunrisers' late dip in form highlights problems with middle-order, team composition

Sunrisers Hyderabad mission IPL reached the next stage, with the team making the playoffs, despite a loss to Kolkata Knight Riders last night at the Eden Gardens. On a dry crumbling surface, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav left the Sunrisers groping for air, luring the batsmen into a numbing stupor with their crafty spin.

Considering that the Sunrisers were sitting pretty at 14 points off their first 10 games, they will need to reflect why they have failed to force their way into the top two. But after a couple of disappointing seasons, it is just as well that they are three good games from an IPL trophy.

The loss yesterday was the Sunrisers’ third loss in four games. Yet again, one of their openers did well and a couple of bowlers pitched in with a tidy spell. But that is far from good enough at a stage when the teams were throwing their kitchen sinks out to force their way into the playoffs.

File picture of Kane Williamson. BCCI

File picture of Kane Williamson Sunrisers Hyderabad's middle order need to fire. BCCI

The team from Hyderabad may come to regret not playing a higher level of cricket toward the end of the league phase. One more victory would have left them top of the table and save them from the nervous need to play an elimination match, just to remain in the competition.

The Sunrisers will need to crunch time and find some answers underlying an insipid run in recent games. Incidentally, the Knight Riders may have provided a clue or two on what needs to be done for the Sunrisers.

The hosts were in a spot of bother at 57-3 midway through the eighth over. Both the openers – Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa – were back in the hut. That is when Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan stepped up to the plate, shouldering the responsibility of building a sizeable edifice of runs that could be defended. Narine and Yadav exploited favourable conditions to shackle the Sunrisers into submission.

The team from Hyderabad needs a similarly convincing effort from their middle order during this final week of the ninth season. The team have become over reliant on a good start and that can come back to haunt them when they take on the Knight Riders again in the first eliminator.

The batting last night was less than impressive. At 86-1 in the twelfth over, the Sunrisers were certainly in with a chance of victory. But they degenerated quickly, dissolving the innings into a procession of tame dismissals.

The one silver lining though was their bowling at the death earlier in the day – Mustafizur Rahman (17th& 19th overs), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (16 & 20) and BarinderSran (18) helped the team tighten the screws conceding just 25 runs in the last four overs.

Yuvraj is clearly lacking the cylinders needed to perform consistently. Perhaps it is naïve to expect anything more than flashes of brilliance from the left hander.

It will be up to Kane Williamson, Deepak Hooda and Moises Henriques to produce a big effort in the next match or two to carry the Sunrisers farther than they have ever been in the IPL.

The middle overs during the batting innings have been a weak spot for Hyderabad and it will take a couple of powerful performances from the middle order to address this glaring deficiency.

Another thing that needs some thought is the team composition. One of the Sunrisers’ strengths is fast turning into a weakness for the team. The Sunrisers have been one of least tinkered teams in season nine, but that seems to have turned them into a predictable unit.

The team management needs to find a dose of innovation to surprise their opponents and gain a decisive edge on the final stretch of the Indian Premier League. Unfortunately for them, the injury to Ashish Nehra has also robbed the attack of some serious experience and sting.

It is crunch time now – Sunrisers will travel to Delhi to play the Knight Riders for a third time this season. The team from Hyderabad will be hard pressed on the tactical front, having lost their both the earlier contests by big margins.

The wicket at the Feroz Shah Kotla is playing true and fair. Anything less than 175 on that strip will be hard to defend, so the task is cut out for the Sunrisers batsmen, if they harbour aspirations of traveling to the Chinnaswamy Stadium for next weekend’s grand finale.

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Updated Date: May 23, 2016 16:43 PM

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