Rajasthan Royals vs Sunrisers Hyderabad | Wednesday 22 May | Delhi | 16:30
It has been a fairy tale tournament for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. The same cannot be said for the Rajasthan Royals. Their joy of reaching the knockout stages would’ve been somewhat tempered by the latest spot-fixing scandal, wreaking havoc within their changing room. The Sunrisers have emerged from the dust of the Deccan Chargers and proved successful; indeed few would’ve thought they could make it this far. But now it’s time for the real deal. The loser of this encounter takes their leave from the tournament. The winner still has another hurdle before the final.
Sree Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan are under arrest. Who said that cricket is a boring sport? Spot-fixing scandals are becoming a bi-yearly event in the cricket world and the latest has depleted the Royals’ Indian bowling ranks. All are accused of fulfilling promises to bookmakers in the form of conceding a specified amount of runs in a specified over. Luckily, camp morale aside, the Royals side has not been overly affected. They are still strong in the bowling department, harbouring the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, James Faulkner. He offers a large variety with the ball, crucial in the T20 game. However, the biggest strength for the Royals lies in their consistent batting lineup, expertly led by Rahul Dravid. He’s taken to the T20 format with the same grace and poise he expressed in the test arena, and has been adequately assisted by the likes of Rahane and Samson. Shane Watson is vital to the success of the batting and adds useful overs with the ball. They possess a good finisher in Binny. The question is whether these components will all function as one come match day.
Not many pundits would’ve given the Sunrisers much of a chance of reaching this stage of the competition prior to the tournament. They’ve constructed much of their success with a consistent record at their home ground, losing only one of the eight fixtures. It’s been built on the back of superb bowling and fielding performances; all sides except the mighty Chennai Super Kings were limited to 130 or less in Hyderabad. Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma have been the ones in control of the new ball, while leg-spinning twins Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma have plugged up the middle overs. The problems in their batting have been alleviated by the return of Shikhar Dhawan, who has shown bursts of brilliance, and has found a settled opener in Parthiv Patel. They’ve also recently beat the Royals and will know that it is within their reach. The warning bells for me come in the way they made it through to the playoffs. Chasing 131 against Kolkata, the openers but on 89 for the first wicket. The Sunrisers then lost five wickets for 23 runs as they stuttered over the line and it begs the question of whether they have the mental capability to keep their bottle when the pressure is on.
The Eliminator will take place on the same ground as Qualifier 1, the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. It seems we can expect runs at the ground, with teams consistently reaching 160 there throughout the tournament. The weather forecast is clear.
BEST: Team to Make Highest 1st 6 Overs Score, Rajasthan Royals 9/10
Rajasthan have made some explosive starts in this tournament and with Shane Watson in the ranks, it comes as no surprise. I think it is likely that the Royals will make a good start but get pegged back in the middle to later overs. This is when the Sunrisers bowling attack is at its best.
VERDICT: Sunrisers 1/1
I’m going to back the fairy tale to continue. The passion is there in Hyderabad and one gets the impression that they want this desperately. With all the focus on the Royals taking place off-field, they would be forgiven for not entering this at 100% concentration.
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