Gujarat Lions will take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in the second qualifier of the IPL 9 at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi on Friday. Both teams go into the knockout clash having tasted varied fortunes in their previous match. Gujarat Lions were undone by a brilliant innings by AB de Villiers, but get another shot at the final, by virtue of finishing table toppers after the league stage. On the other hand, Sunrisers knocked out Kolkata Knight Riders in the first qualifier, but since they finished third in the league stage, they will need to achieve another win, against the Lions, to progress to the final.
Gujarat have suffered a dip in batting form in recent times, and that will trouble them most as they head into Friday's match. Brendon McCullum has played some fiery knocks in the tournament, but at present, he is not at his best. Lions would genuinely hope that McCullum finds form against the Sunrisers, and gives the team some much-needed impetus with the bat. Some of the other batsmen are already in great form, so that would please the team. Dwayne Smith has been absolutely superb for the team whether at the top of the order, or in the middle. He could be a trump card again.
Aaron Finch is another batsman who has won a number of games for the side. In fact, he kicked off the tournament with three fifties in as many games at the beginning of the IPL before being ruled out of a few games due to injury. Like Smith, he has been versatile, and has tasted success both at the top and in the middle order. Per se, there are a number of match-winners in the team, but the lack of runs from skipper Suresh Raina will worry them. Lions will be looking forward to match-winning efforts from Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja in the all-round department.
Sunrisers put up a highly competent all-round effort against Kolkata to stay alive in the event. But, the question is whether they can repeat the impressive performance. One of the biggest gains for Hyderabad from the win against Kolkata was the return to form of Yuvraj Singh. Although not at his fluent best, Yuvraj brought all his experience into play on a tough surface. At a time when Hyderabad were in trouble, Yuvraj put his hands up and delivered. Hyderabad will be hoping for the veteran to carry on his good work. At the same too, they would also want David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan to fire in the big game.
With Ashish Nehra out injured, there were theories floating around that Hyderabad's bowling would be weakened. But, that hasn't been the case. Bhuvneshwar Kumar continued with his great form against Kolkata, and his 3 for 19 was instrumental in Hyderabad restricting KKR in the chase. Mustafizur Rahman also has been key to the team's success with his accuracy and variations. The same will continued to be expected of him. In Barinder Sran, they have another wicket-taking bowler. In this end, it could come down to Sunrisers' bowlers versus Lions' batsmen.
--By A Cricket Analyst