New Delhi: Eyeing a shot at the title in their debut season, Gujarat Lions will have to fight off the fiery pacers of the Sunrisers Hyderabad when the two teams clash in the IPL Qualifier 2 here tomorrow.
The Lions, led by Suresh Raina, have been impressive in their first ever IPL appearance, finishing on top of the table en route to the Play-offs.
They had one foot in the summit clash when they had Royal Challengers Bangalore on the mat in first Qualifier but AB de Villiers pulled the rug from under their feet with his sensational batting.
But the job is not going to be easy for the Lions since they are up against a team, which has beaten them twice in the league stage. Both the times, they had failed to defend their totals against the Sunrisers.
The Sunrisers have lost a bit of an edge in the absence of impactful Ashish Nehra, who is now recuperating from a knee surgery, but at the same time Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Bangladeshi pacer Mustafizur Rahman have actually managed to bowl Sunrisers to a position of strength.
In the Eliminator too, skipper David Warner used Bhuvneshwar and Mustafizur to create a lot of pressure on Kolkata Knight Riders' batsmen and eventually they cracked.
The Feroz Shah Kotla track has something for the pacers even as the wickets here have gone a bit slow as the tournament progressed. And the way the Lions' fast bowler Dhawal Kulkarni bowled against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Qualifier 1, it looks like the batsmen are again going to have a tough time.
The strategy to straightaway go bang-bang against the bowlers will not work and the batsmen will need to spend some time at the crease before opening their arms. This is exactly what Yuvraj Singh did yesterday against KKR and his innings made all the difference in the outcome of the match.
The Lions have the wherewithal and batsmen to fight the Sunrisers pacers and they would hope that Brendon McCullum rises to occasion tomorrow. The Kiwi batsman need to fire at the top and put a tag on his wicket. Dwayne Smith has been their go-to man and he is one batsman the Sunrisers need to get early on.
Smith's knocks in the tournament have proved crucial for the Lions and they need the West Indian to continue with his tremendous batting. Aaron Finch is another batsman who can change the course of the match on his own.
For the Sunrisers, Yuvraj getting back to his old touch is certainly good news. The top-5, which also includes in-form Shikhar Dhawan, make the core of their batting and the Lions will have to ensure they do not bat for long.
But it surely will be a contest between Surisers' pacers and batsmen of the Lions. Whichever team makes it to the final, a new team will be crowned champion this season as none of the three teams left in the tournament has won the trophy.
The Teams (From):
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Moises Henriques, Eoin Morgan, Deepak Hooda, Naman Ojha, Karn Sharma, Mustafizur Rahman, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Barinder Sran, Trent Boult, Ben Cutting, Kane Williamson, Ashish Reddy, Ricky Bhui, Bipul Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Abhimanyu Mithun, Vijay Shankar, T Suman, Aditya Tare.
Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (capt.), Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Dale Steyn, James Faulkner, Ishan Kishan, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shivil Kaushik, Dwayne Bravo, Sarabjit Ladda, Amit Mishra, Akashdeep Nath, Paras Dogra, Eklavya Dwivedi, Shadab Jakati, Pradeep Sangwan, Jaydev Shah, Umang Sharma, Pravin Tambe, Andrew Tye.
Match starts at 8pm.