Photo credit: BCCI.
Race to the playoffs in IPL 7 has entered the final lap, and on Wednesday Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab will try to outsprint each other to stay in contention for a top-four finish.
At the outset, the contest seems lopsided - with Punjab second on the table with 14 points and Hyderabad involved in a lower-half jostle with 8 points. But it's a home game for Hyderabad and that may give them the extra lift to upset the red-hot KXIP.
But for the hosts, their first home game of the season on Monday against Mumbai Indians didn't end on a satisfying note. They were totally outplayed by the Mumbai batsmen who chased down the 158-run target with ease to win by 7 wickets. The hosts, though, will hope they finish on the winning side on Wednesday to make the home fans happy.
Punjab too didn't get a desired result in their last outing when Kolkata Knight Riders managed to cut their flight in Cuttack. So they too will take field hoping to return to winning ways.
KXIP have no batting worries with Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and of late Virender Sehwag doing most of the damage. Neither are there any concerners in the bowling department for Punjab, with Sandeep Sharma proving a handful with his swing. He, in fact, is fifth on the bowling charts with 13 wickets in 7 matches.
Mitchell Johnson too is coming into his own towards the business end of the season after an indifferent start. And Punjab also have seasoned performers in L Balaji and Murali Kartik to bolster their bowling attack.
Hyderabad, on the other hand, have been struggling throughout to strike as a unit. Their batting strongly wants a collective effort from skipper Shikhar Dhawan and Australians Aaron Finch and David Warner to have an impact on the game.
It will also be a test for Hyderabad bowlers who have done well so far, though they will like to forget the performance against Mumbai in the last match. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has consistently been after the Purple cap taking wickets regularly while Dale Steyn remains a threat for every opposition. Amit Mishra has led the spin department with fellow legspinner Karn Sharma, though the duo will want to get among the wickets on a regular basis.
Irfan Pathan appears a little off colour compared to others in the SRH bowling department, and the team may look for his replacement.