Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Evenly matched teams in a battle of wits

The first eliminator of IPL 2013 features two unlikely, yet similar competitors, in Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad. The thread of similarity extends beyond the 'underdog' status.They've had similar journeys to the playoffs. Both sides have been strong at home, with Royals finishing unbeaten and Sunrisers losing just one game, to Chennai Super Kings. Their record away from home this season has also been similar. Royals have managed two away wins in eight games, while Sunrisers have won three.Heading into the first eliminator of the IPL, that's where the similarities between the two teams end. Royals sealed their spot in the last four in great style, with a shock win against Chennai Super Kings. The losses in their next two matches, however, meant that they were deprived of a top-two finish and another shot at qualifying for the final. Heavy losses in their last two games and the cloud of the spot-fixing scandal wouldn't have done their confidence any good, but they are a determined side that have converted a good start to the tournament into a top-three finish.Sunrisers, on the other hand, are riding a wave of confidence, with two wins in their last two games. They've played a largely unchanged side throughout the tournament but more importantly, have responded well to pressure, especially in the final game against Kolkata Knight Riders, where Darren Sammy guided the side home after the side had come very close to imploding.The two teams match up evenly on the field. Sunrisers have a much better bowling attack compared to Royals, who have relied on purple cap-holder James Faulkner and Shane Watson. In terms of batting, however, Royals are clearly stronger. As Royals look to emerge winners in the first eliminator, Brad Hogg and Shaun Tait might get a look-in to strengthen the side's bowling with experience.Shane Watson's importance to Rajasthan Royals simply cannot be played down. His return to bowling has opened up an extra slot in the team for them, while his batting set up some of their biggest wins this season. Royals have used him smartly, pushing him down the order in tough chases, against Super Kings for instance, or using his big-hitting skills to set up quick starts at the top of the order.Given their lack of experience, Sunrisers' young Indian players have grown with their performances in the season. Although he has drawn criticism for his slow strike-rate, Hanuma Vihari has played to the set role of holding one end up to stem wickets. Biplab Samantray showed maturity as he guided Sunrisers to a competitive total against Royals. Legspinner Karan Sharma, too, has also done well in the opportunities he has been given, picking up 10 wickets from 12 matches at an average of 20.6 and an economy rate of 6.27.

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