New Delhi: Gujarat Lions will look to extend their impressive debut campaign when they face Sunrisers Hyderabad, who are also eyeing their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) final berth, in the second qualifier here on Friday.
Gujarat topped the league stage and were pipped by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first qualifier by six wickets. But they will join RCB in the final if they beat Hyderabad at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium.
Hyderabad, who finished fourth in the league standings, shrugged off two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday here by 22 runs.
The Sunrisers franchise, playing in the IPL since 2013, is yet to reach the final of the IPL and come Friday, it will get a good chance. They defeated Gujarat in both the matches in the league phase and those victories, due to the success of the bowlers, will give them a mental edge coming into Friday’s contest.
Led superbly by David Warner, Hyderabad are a batting heavy team with the Australian captain (686 runs) and Shikhar Dhawan (473 runs) both featuring in the top-10 run-getters in this edition.
Gujarat need to get rid of them as quickly as possible to have an early impact on the game.
Veteran Yuvraj Singh has contributed in bits and pieces but the 30-ball 44 he scored on Wednesday will give him confidence. A lot will also depend on Australian all-rounder Moises Henriques.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson and youngster Deepak Hooda, who form the middle order, must contribute if the Sunrisers fancy a chance to beat Gujarat.
In the bowling department, Mustafizur Rahman (16 wickets) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (21 wickets) have ensured that Hyderabad don’t bemoan the absence of veteran pacer Ashish Nehra, who underwent a right knee surgery in London on Tuesday.
Uttar Pradesh medium pacer Bhuvneshwar and Bangladesh left-armer Mustafizur have not only picked up wickets at crucial times, but have also kept a check on the run flow. Punjab left-armer Barinder Sran has tried his best to fill in for Nehra.
“The bowlers have shown fantastic appetite. The experience of injured (Ashish) Nehra was a big miss for us. His experience is second to none. But the guys have stepped up,” Warner told reporters after the win over Kolkata.
“Barinder Sran has been bowling really well. He is still learning and big credit goes to Bhuvneswar Kumar because he has been helping him (Sran) a lot day in and day out. That’s the good thing about this team that everyone is willing to learn.”
The weak link in the bowling department is the spin duo of Karn Sharma and Bipul Sharma. But skipper Warner will hope that the seamers will again rise to the occasion.
Warner is aware of the dangermen in his rival’s camp. One feature of Gujarat’s campaign is that the contribution comes from every quarter.
The batting will centre around West Indian Dwayne Smith (323 runs), former New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum (322), Australian Aaron Finch (343 runs) and skipper Suresh Raina (398 runs).
Stumper Dinesh Karthik (309 runs) and all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja will add enough firepower in the lower order.
“We know who their key players are. We know they have got very good firing power. Dwayne Smith has been playing very well. Their openers are going to come hard,” Warner said.
“For us it’s about starting well as a unit whether we bat or bowl first. We need to make sure that we execute our plans.”
The bowling department has the likes of medium pacer Dhawal Kulkarni (18 wickets), who has been a revelation in this edition, Praveen Kumar (9 wickets) and Bravo (15 wickets). Left-arm spinner Jadeja has also contributed with eight wickets so far.
Other spin options are chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik and left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati.
With the Kotla pitch being a two-pace wicket, Kaushik may play a prominent role for Gujarat to contain the left-handed batsmen in the Hyderabad camp.