Both these teams began their IPL 2020 campaigns against each other, and in some ways how they began is how their tournament has gone. The Royal Challengers Bangalore pulled off a win on the back of their bowling, having first put up a competitive score. The Sunrisers Hyderabad looked like they were making smooth progress in their chase, until a middle-order collapse did them in.
At the other end of the league phase now, both teams find themselves with different equations. The Royal Challengers haven't yet secured qualification but are still second on the points table. One win will take them through. The Sunrisers, on the other hand, need to win both their remaining games. They'll be a bit more confident of doing that, because a match earlier, they had needed to win three in three - and against the top-three teams. The Delhi Capitals have been knocked off quite spectacularly, and the Sunrisers have to do the same against the Royal Challengers now.
For the Royal Challengers, there might be a hint of worry given that they have lost two on the bounce, to the Chennai Super Kings and then the Mumbai Indians. Their batting didn't show up in either game, emphasising the importance of AB de Villiers in the line-up. Whenever he has fired, the Royal Challengers have looked powerful. When he hasn't, the batting has not been able to break free into impregnable totals territory for the most part.
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The Royal Challengers will be waiting on Navdeep Saini's fitness status. The fast bowler had split the webbing of his right hand in the loss to the Super Kings. Not having Saini available forced quite a few changes for their game against Mumbai. The Royal Challengers had to bring in Dale Steyn to cover for Saini, but that also meant Moeen Ali having to sit out. Shivam Dube was brought back for Ali. Steyn didn't have a great game against Mumbai, so Isuru Udana might come back instead of Steyn if Saini continues to be unavailable.
The Sunrisers' swap of Jonny Bairstow for Kane Williamson led to Wriddhiman Saha being pushed into the opener's slot, but a circuitous route yielded a bountiful result, as Saha tore apart the Capitals, who have among the IPL's best bowling attacks. Historically, Saha's best position in the IPL has been to bat in the powerplay, and with Baistow not having fired as expected, Saha's success at the top has lent much greater stability to the Sunrisers middle order with Williamson in there. The New Zealander was sorely missed when the Sunrisers crashed to a 12-run defeat against the Kings XI Punjab chasing only 127 for victory. Incidentally, the Sunrisers had crashed to a similar defeat in their first match against the Royal Challengers in IPL 2020 too, losing by 10 runs. Williamson had been absent from the XI then too, due to injury.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Josh Philippe, 2 Devdutt Padikkal, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 Gurkeerat Singh Mann, 6 Shivam Dube/Moeen Ali, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Isuru Udana/Navdeep Saini, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt), 2. Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Vijay Shankar, 6 Abdul Samad, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Shahbaz Nadeem, 10 T Natarajan, 11 Sandeep Sharma
It was both teams' first match of IPL 2020, and the Sunrisers were 121 for 2, needing 43 runs in 4.5 overs with Bairstow on song, when Yuzvendra Chahal wrecked the middle order. Inexperience played a part in the collapse, as Sunrisers subsided to 153 all out, having lost a chase they looked in control of for large parts.
The Sunrisers had gone with Mitchell Marsh as their fourth overseas player then, and he pulled up short without completing an over and hobbled out to bat at No.10. They've covered for Marsh with Jason Holder now, and they've got Williamson fit again.
Outside of the IPL, de Villiers has had a lot of success against Rashid Khan. But in the IPL, where Rashid has bowled to de Villiers as part of a generally strong bowling attack, it is the legspinner who has come out on top, with de Villiers taking only 17 runs off 16 balls and dismissed twice. Rashid has also had the better of Virat Kohli, with the Royal Challengers captain having taken 18 runs off 18 balls while being out once. Keeping Rashid for the men who will bat at No.3 and No.4 might be a good move for the Sunrisers.
David Warner began IPL 2020 by batting conservatively, looking to play through the innings. While he did get 283 runs in his first eight matches, they came at a strike rate of 121.88, and a Smart Strike Rate of 116.83. In his last four games though, Warner has spoken about going "old school" and reverting to his attacking ways. His strike rate has gone to 167.03 and his Smart Strike Rate has shot up to 203.03, meaning Warner is effectively scoring almost twice as fast as he was. The quick scoring hasn't come at the expense of runs: Warner has 152 runs in his last four games, and a much higher average (50.67 to 35.50). Continuing to be aggressive at the top seems to be the way to go for Warner.
So how do the Royal Challengers counter Warner? Deploy Washington Sundar. He has a couple of factors going for him: he's going to turn the ball away from Warner, he's capable of adjusting line and length later than most bowlers, and he's already bowled extensively in the powerplay this IPL and been among the most economical bowlers in the competition. Warner hasn't been dismissed by Sundar, but he has taken only 22 runs off him from 22 balls faced - and it's 20 off 20 in the powerplay. Keeping Warner quiet in the powerplay will be a significant advantage in itself, and could affect how the rest of the Sunrisers batting goes, much as it did before Warner rediscovered his free-stroking avatar.
Stats that matter
None of these teams have gone through a season with an all-win record against the other when they've played at least two games, splitting wins each time. They played each other thrice in 2016, with Sunrisers beating the Royal Challengers in the IPL final.
Of the ten IPL 2020 games played at Sharjah so far, the split between winning batting first and second is five-five. However, the last four matches at Sharjah have been won by the chasing team, with dew playing a more prominent role as the tournament has gone on too.
Kohli has played 14 matches against the Sunrisers. He made more than 40 in six of his first seven games against them, but in the latter seven games, he has gone past 40 just once.