Royal Challengers look to big guns to raise the pitch against fast-moving Sunrisers

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Royal Challengers Bangalore have won five of their last six matches after starting with a defeat. Sunrisers Hyderabad have hit back with four consecutive victories following two losses to begin with. Royal Challengers are placed second on the IPL 2022 table; Sunrisers are fifth from one game fewer. What better time, then, for them to face each other?

As returns of 8* (2), 26 (11), 55 (34) and 23 (11) suggest, Maxwell has been on the move even if for brief spurts. He has a strike rate of 193, despite facing just 55 balls so far. And while Kohli showed encouraging signs with a 41 not out to start the season, he has managed just 78 runs in the next six innings; in three of those, he has fallen for single-digit scores. Ravi Shastri, his coach with the national side till the other day, suggested recently that Kohli was “overcooked”; Kevin Pietersen said Kohli’s “brain was completely fried”. But only Kohli knows what it really is. What should help him is that he remains a certain starter for Royal Challengers.

As for Sunrisers, they don’t seem to be putting a foot wrong at the moment. It’s almost as if the two early defeats have woken them up from a slumber. They are yet to lose more than three wickets in a match since those games. All four victories have come while chasing, as they have hunted down totals with time, overs and wickets in hand.

In contrast to their opponents’ top-four troubles, Sunrisers’ entire top five has led them to four successful chases in a row, with at least two – if not more – significant contributions in each match.

Markram, in particular, has hit his stride, and unleased the T20 player inside him after a below-par summer for South Africa. Their second-highest run-getter after Tripathi, Markram has bashed 190 runs at a strike rate of 150 so far – that includes two unbeaten half-centuries – and has been dismissed only once in five innings.

And to back their batters’ efforts is the pace trio of T Natarajan, Umran Malik and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. While Natarajan provides the left-armer’s angle and the ability to nail yorkers, Malik carries the threat of pace, and Bhuvneshwar brings with him swing, variations and, most importantly, a lot of experience.

Although it may mean looking too far ahead considering the time and matches in hand, Sunrisers could turn out to be serious contenders for the title if they continue producing such all-round consistency in the upcoming matches.

In the news

Washington Sundar split a webbing in his right hand against Gujarat Titans, which ruled him out of Sunrisers’ following two games against Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings. Although coach Tom Moody had said after their win against Titans that the injury would probably take “a week or so to settle down”, there has been no official word since. If Washington makes the XI against Royal Challengers, then left-arm spinner J Suchith is likely to sit out.

Likely XIs

The same unit has fetched Royal Challengers back-to-back wins, but top-order batter Rajat Patidar remains an option should they decide to bench the out-of-form Rawat.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Faf du Plessis (capt), 2 Anuj Rawat/Rajat Patidar, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Suyash Prabhudessai, 7 Shahbaz Ahmed, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Josh Hazlewood, 10 Harshal Patel, 11 Mohammed Siraj

Suchith for Washington has been the only change in Sunrisers’ line-up in the last four matches. With them having got a favourable result since then and Suchith having been tidy with the ball, it is unlikely that they would tweak a winning combination unless Washington is good to go.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Abhishek Sharma, 2 Kane Williamson (capt), 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Shashank Singh, 7 Marco Jansen, 8 J Suchith, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Umran Malik, 11 T Natarajan

Strategy punt

  • Sunrisers have a great opportunity to keep Kohli quiet for at least one more match.
  • Across all T20s, Bhuvneshwar has got Kohli out thrice and kept him to a strike rate of 121, while Natarajan has dismissed him once while restricting him to 108. However, Kohli has faced only seven deliveries from Marco Jansen in the format, and has never faced Malik before. With Malik also consistently taking the speed gun high, expect him to cause some trouble to a momentum-seeking Kohli.

  • All four of Harshal Patel, Hazlewood, Mohammed Siraj and Maxwell have dismissed Williamson at least once in T20s. Williamson particularly struggles to get going against Harshal, who has kept him to a strike rate of just 75. And with Hazlewood likely to take the new ball, Williamson wouldn’t want to be reminded of his strike rate of 92 against him either. Albeit conceding runs at a quicker pace, Siraj and Maxwell have dismissed Williamson twice apiece.
  • Meanwhile, Hazlewood got the better of Williamson’s opening partner Abhishek the only time they have faced each other, though Abhishek has rather enjoyed facing Siraj, whom he has picked for 24 runs off 16 balls without being dismissed. So don’t be surprised if Royal Challengers choose to have one of Maxwell or Harshal alongside Hazlewood with the new ball.

    Stats that matter

  • Shahbaz has hit 171 runs at a strike rate of 147 this season despite walking out to bat with the score at 62 for 4, thrice, and once each at 42 for 3 and 75 for 4.
  • Tripathi and Markram have combined to hit 242 runs at an average of 121 and a strike rate of 186 against pace this season. All other Sunrisers batters have collectively managed 344 runs at an average of 21.5 and a strike rate of 117.
  • With 6.1 and 6.8 respectively, both Royal Challengers and Sunrisers have the lowest run rate among all the teams in the powerplay this season.
  • du Plessis’ record against spin this season stands much better than against pace. While he has fallen five times to the quicks, against whom he has scored at a strike rate of 121, he has taken on the slower bowlers with more pleasure, going at 149 with only two dismissals.
  • Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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