Cricket news - Squeaky seat time for SRH, RCB

Hyderabad, who have made top-four every year since 2016, haven't been the early risers this year.

Hyderabad, who have made top-four every year since 2016, haven't been the early risers this year.

"These are the two most important points for us in the last three years. Hyderabad is the team that has cost us dearly in the past," said Virat Kohli in 2015 after his three-year wait to make the IPL playoffs was about to end following a win in Hyderabad. RCB would make it past the league phase again next year and meet their southern neighbours the following year, on a red-letter evening in Bengaluru that marked SRH's first acquaintance with the IPL trophy and also RCB's last with the knockouts for another three years.

Hyderabad, who have made top-four every year since 2016, haven't been the early risers this year. David Warner will come to Sharjah knowing that every detail of his team will be under the fiercest glare. Yet, it is from the shadows that he must find the answers. SRH thumped Delhi to the tune of 88 runs but lost their opener, Wriddhiman Saha (groin) and all-rounder Vijay Shankar (hamstring), who failed to complete the game on the field. This cloud around the team composition is offset only by the clarity of their mission statement: Lose and you're out.

RCB are not there by any means but could find themselves shifting uncomfortably in their seats in the final game if they don't come up with the goods here. What Virat Kohli and Co. are missing in this campaign is a final bit of detailing. Middle-overs batting remains the big sticking point. Devdutt Padikkal led a marked improvement with the scoring rate against Mumbai, as RCB hit 80 in the 10 overs post the PowerPlay, but they fell on the other edge of the sword, with their attacking intent resulting in a collapse and a sub-par total. RCB need their most precise performance, with no straggly bits in selection, batting orders or bowling changes.

Their position is best reflected in former Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong's famous advice to sports teams and entrepreneurs. "Pick your battles. You can't win every battle. However, you can win the important ones." Saturday's game qualifies as one of those. SRH are not RCB's most formidable opposition in this tournament. Yet, this season's late-risers could show again what they are really capable of doing when fully awake.

When: Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Match 52, October 31, 2020; 18:00 Local, 19:30 IST

Where: Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah

What to expect: This being the first of the last two games in Sharjah will be played on a newer (relatively) wicket. The T20 axiom has shifted ever so steadily at this venue with chasing teams winning each of the last four fixtures. MS Dhoni summed up this switch when he said: "There is just enough dew to make it slightly better and that creates a difference between the first and the second innings. It becomes slightly more difficult to score in the first innings in the middle overs and slightly easier in the middle overs of the second innings."

Team News:

Royal Challengers Bangalore

RCB's emphasis on conditions and match-up specific selection has meant that despite their strong standing they don't have a settled XI yet. It has been further compounded by the split webbing injury for Navdeep Saini. Dale Steyn had a forgettable outing against Mumbai Indians and seems likely to sit this one out. RCB have played an extra bowler at Sharjah in their two previous games and that could see a return for Isuru Udana. KXIP have shown here that two legspinners can be made to work so Adam Zampa remains an option. If Shivam Dube isn't seen as a bowling option, RCB will look at picking Shahbaz Ahmed or even Umesh Yadav.

Probable XI:Devdutt Padikkal, Joshua Philippe, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers (wk), Gurkeerat Mann, Washington Sundar, Chris Morris, Isuru Udana/Adam Zampa, Shahbaz Ahmed/Navdeep Saini/Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal

Sunrisers Hyderabad

SRH have an asterisk next to their opening pair despite a blistering knock from Saha, who didn't come out to keep in the second innings. They'll hope Saha recovers for this encounter given Jonny Bairstow's reintroduction will disturb their overseas combination once more because Warner has needed the overs from Jason Holder. If required, a straightforward swap to bring Sreevats Goswami to the top with an instruction to try and match the tempo will work well. Abhishek Sharma may have to fill in with his left-arm spinners if Vijay is not fit.

Probable XI:David Warner (c), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson, Abdul Samad, Vijay Shankar/Abhishek Sharma, Jason Holder, Rashid Khan, Sandeep Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem/Khaleel Ahmed, T. Natarajan

Did you know?

- SRH are the best side in the PowerPlay this season. They have the highest scoring rate (8.24) and have lost the least wickets (9) in this phase.

- Warner himself has changed his methods in the first six overs. After striking at a tame 105.5 in the first 9 innings, he's hit 85 off 44 in the last two games.

- Sandeep Sharma has picked 21 wickets in 13 matches against RCB. He has dismissed Kohli six times and de Villiers twice.

What they said:

"This is always going to happen - some teams peak early and some do better later. As we can see, the teams in the lower-half are turning out some really good performances now." - Virat Kohli, on why the top teams have failed to seal their playoff spots just yet.

"I went a little 2009 and opened my front leg to take it on. I took a bit of responsibility at the top of the order, and take it to the bowlers. It's tough to play orthodox cricket in these conditions, so I have to open up 360 degrees." - David Warner, on the upswing in his PowerPlay scoring rates.