The stage is set. Hyderabad will be the venue as Royal Challengers Bangalore look to keep their season alive with a win over table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Virat Kohli hasn’t yet registered a match-winning knock that will long in the memory of fans. And yet he is the sixth-leading run-getter in IPL 2018 and has an average of 51 with three fifties to his name. Both he and AB de Villiers will want to stamp their authority on a game that might yet come to define their season.
Despite the importance of the game and the fact that this is the first time that the two teams will be playing each other this season, Sunrisers Hyderabad can actually relax. Not only are they at the top of the table but they have also played a game fewer than CSK, who are level on points. All they need is a win to secure their playoff and this will be the first of five attempts they have at getting that.
Who will come out on top in this battle between bat and ball? Here is a look at what might happen as Kane Williamson takes on Virat Kohli.
Date: May 7
Venue: Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad
Time: 20:00 IST
If Sunrisers Hyderabad bat first
Predicted score: 160+
Sunrisers Hyderabad were always the side who could defend anything, courtesy of their incredible bowling attack. But their last game against Delhi Daredevils showed that they have the firepower to chase down a target as well. Hales and Dhawan continue to develop a good understanding at the start and the middle-order is slowly starting to contribute.
The biggest challenge for SRH in this game will be the negotiation of the new ball. For all of RCB’s faults this season and there are too many to count, their ability to get wickets with the new ball has been one of their biggest strengths.
Tim Southee and Umesh Yadav have managed to make the new ball sing to their tune and if they do that in a ground that has traditionally afforded the new ball bowlers some swing early in the game, that will put them in a strong position.
Kane Williamson is SRH’s leading run-getter this season and he will once again be crucial as he will need to safely negotiate the new ball if an early wicket falls. If they can safely navigate through the storm that will be the new ball, they will then have the ideal platform to put on a total that they can defend.
If the top three fail to get going though, SRH will need Yusuf Pathan, who was the hero in the last game, along with Shakib Al Hasan and Wriddhiman Saha to contribute and make the most of it towards the end.
Against a bowling line-up that has been very good at the start and have good options with respect to the spin department, a total in excess of 160 would be a good one for SRH.
If Royal Challengers Bangalore bat first
Predicted score: 165+
Royal Challengers Bangalore have been the dictionary definition of inconsistent this season and unlike previous years, much of the blame will fall on the batsmen and not the bowlers. At the start and in the spin department, RCB have been incredibly effective but their batsmen have failed them far too often.
And constant changes to the batting line-up hasn’t helped their cause as well. They have had so many different opening combinations this season, it will take even their most die-hard fan a while to list all of them in order. Quinton de Kock, Brendon McCullum, Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli and Manan Vohra have all got the chance to open this season without much success.
AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli fell cheaply against CSK and that cost them dearly. They will hope that doesn’t happen again, especially against a high-quality bowling line-up. Both of them will be crucial in handling Rashid Khan, who has been sensational for SRH this season.
With RCB needing a win to remain in contention for a playoff spot, they will need their openers to negotiate the new ball and ensure that Kohli and AB are at the crease and available to see off Rashid Khan.
With Bhuvneshwar Kumar back in the side, a formidable bowling line-up that already had Siddarth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma gets even better. And with some early swing on offer, RCB will find it tricky, despite their incredible batting talent to score in excess of 165 against this bowling attack.
Since this is a home game for SRH, who have a stellar home record, they have an immediate advantage over an inconsistent RCB line-up. They have shown that they can defend any score but against a side that has the best limited-overs chaser in the game, that won’t be easy.
With RCB in desperate need of a win and in conditions that would suit their side, they will go into the game as favourites, despite the fact that SRH are at the top of the table.