Despite finishing top of the points tally, Gujarat Lions went in to the Qualifier 1 against Royal Challengers as underdogs, and almost overcame the best batting unit in the tournament before being blown away by an AB de Villiers special. Now, they have to slug it out for a place in the final against the best bowling unit in the tournament, again as underdogs, when they face Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday.
Gujarat showed a lot of spunk against RCB, reducing the Virat Kohli-led side to 31 for five in defence of 158, but what would be worrisome for the Suresh Raina-led side is his batsmen struggled on a dry surface of Bangalore. Delhi will dish out an even trickier track and Hyderabad have the advantage of having played a game here in the Eliminator where they beat Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday.
Gujarat have as many as five batsmen who have scored over 300 runs in the tournament in comparison to just two, David Warner (686) and Shikhar Dhawan (473), for Hyderabad but the Lions have not tasted success against Sunrisers in their previous two meetings in the league stage. In fact, Gujarat have failed to go past the 140-run mark on both occasions, batting first. That in turn means, Hyderabad bowlers have had a field day against the IPL debutants.
Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch are two of the most brutal hitters of the cricket ball, but the duo has not clicked as a unit. Raina at number three is a genuine threat when it is IPL playoffs, but the question is: Who will be able to support the Gujarat skipper at the other end? Dwayne Smith , batting in the middle-order, rescued his team against RCB and will have to play a key role alongside his skipper.
Enough has been witnessed, said and written about the Hyderabad pace bowling attack led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mustafizur Rahman, who have combined to take 37 wickets between them in the tournament. Moises Henriques and Ben Cutting played second fiddles to perfection to their strike bowlers and the result was the Hyderabad attack looked rocked solid.
The weakness, however, is their batting if Warner gets out cheaply, or even after he scores big. Shikhar Dhawan has had indifferent form throughout the tournament, while Henriques as a middle-order enforcer and a pinch-hitter has been a failed experiment. The biggest plus for SRH going in to this do-or-die fixture is the return of form of a certain Yuvraj Singh . Gujarat, on the other hand, would hope to see a repeat of the stellar bowling performance that Dhawal Kulkarni put in against RCB.