Sunrisers takes on unpredictable Kings XI

The teams won their first two matches of the Indian Premier League season and remain among the serious contenders to advance to the next stage.

Yuvraj Singh has scored 96 runs in six matches so far.   -  V Sreenivasa Murthy

With revenge on mind, Kings XI Punjab will host defending champion Sunrisers Hyderabad here on Friday. Given the unpredictability of the home team, Sunrisers has reasons to be wary of a serious backlash.

The teams won their first two matches of the Indian Premier League season and remain among the serious contenders to advance to the next stage. At present - around the half-way mark of the competition - they are doing the chasing as Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians look set to firm up their spots in the playoffs.

Sunrisers, the more balanced of the two teams, will look to repeat the dose to Kings XI given in what was the fifth match for the teams this year. That five-run victory had helped Sunrisers escape a hat-trick of defeats, having lost to Mumbai and Kolkata in succession.

Much has been said about the Sunrisers bowling resources, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar topping the charts with 16 wickets and Rashid Khan accounting for 10, followed by veteran Ashish Nehra with five. With three of the four victories coming fielding second, Sunrisers bowlers obviously have reasons to feel upbeat.

However, the Sunrisers' batsmen are yet to perform to potential. Though skipper David Warner (282 runs), fellow-opener Shikhar Dhawan (235) and Moises Henriques (193) have done the bulk of scoring, Yuvraj Singh’s form is a worrying factor. Kane Williamson looks in good touch but Deepak Hooda’s big hitting abilities are yet to come to the fore this season.

Kings XI, on the other hand, is happy to return to its home stadium. It plays two back-to-back matches twice in 12 days.

Onus on batsmen

Kings XI continues to be an unpredictable challenger. After losing four matches on the trot, the team turned it around against Gujarat Lions, upbeat after softening up table-topper KKR. Unlike Sunrisers, Kings XI lacks the variety in its bowling to restrict run-making. So far, its ploy to invest in overseas batsmen and home-grown bowlers has brought limited dividends.

Though Hashim Amla’s form is the biggest gain for Kings XI, with the bearded opener scoring 299 runs so far, skipper Glenn Maxwell (193) and Manan Vohra (176) have not fired. Shaun Marsh, David Miller, Eion Morgan and Wriddhiman Saha, too, have not shown match-winning form.

The composition of this team is much like Royal Challenge Bangalore that, on paper, has the batsmen to post formidable totals but lacks the quality in bowling to be sure of stopping the opposition.

Axar Patel (122 runs and eight wickets) is clearly the one who, more often than not, contributes to the team’s cause. Once again, it will be interesting to watch how the Kings XI’s batsmen deal with the Sunrisers bowling. Ten days back, in a low-scoring thriller, Kings XI folded at 154 in its chase of 159. Again, a close contest is expected. It remains to be seen whether the all-round ability of Sunrisers comes good or Kings XI, in keeping with its unpredictability, exacts revenge.