Upbeat Kings XI looks to snap SRH’s winning run

As the early front-runner, SRH carries the unwanted tag of being a pre-match favourite. So far, it has managed to restrict former champions Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders to sub-150 totals before covering the distance by facing varying degrees of challenges.

Kings XI Punjab players during a training session.   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

Having won five out of six matches they’ve been involved in this year’s Indian Premier League, leader Sunrisers Hyderabad and host Kings XI Punjab promise a close contest when the face-off here on Thursday.

Understandably, Kings is on a high after foiling a late bid by M. S. Dhoni the other night. The four-run victory also ended Chennai Super Kings’ chase-and-win sequence. Now the host is confident of administering the same bitter pill to SRH whose all three victories have come batting second.

As the early front-runner, SRH carries the unwanted tag of being a pre-match favourite. So far, it has managed to restrict former champions Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders to sub-150 totals before covering the distance by facing varying degrees of challenges.

SRH could well prefer to chase once again while Kings’ would be happy to set a target, like it did against CSK. Unless the teams choose to come out of their comfort zones, toss will lose its relevance.

Read: Opening innings is big plus for me, says Wriddhiman Saha

Openers Shikhar Dhawan and K. L. Rahul have come good so far for teams. While Dhawan’s role is to bat through, if possible, his partner Wriddhman Saha’s brief is clearly to set up the tempo in powerplay.

Among the four openers on view, undoubtedly Chris Gayle could be the most destructive. Given the signs he showed here on Sunday, SRH could well be on the backfoot in the powerplay for the first time this season.

Overall, SRH appears to have ticked most boxes in these early days of its campaign. Kane Williamson has hit form, Manish Pandey is ready to fire and hitters like Deepak Hooda and Yusuf Pathan are shaping well to contribute more.

 

All-rounder Shakib al-Hassan lends the much-needed balance to the side. The bowling, headed by the ever-so-reliable Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, has two quality spinners in Shakib and Rashid Khan.

No doubt, Kings has the batting to negate the advantage SRH enjoys in bowling. But so far, its middle-order has not fired. Against CSK, despite a 96-run start in eight overs, the team managed only 197.

Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair and Yuvraj Singh showed the spark without hurting the opposition. The fast bowlers, except Andrew Tye, look far from menacing. But the spin-trio of skipper Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, if fit, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman could make the difference.