At some point in the season, DC and SRH exchanged fortunes with each other and so, remarkably after what happened in the first half of the season, we will head into Qualifier 2 with David Warner’s men as outright favourites. That said, a bit of out-of-the-box thinking could yet serve Delhi well.
Where are DC and SRH playing on Sunday?
At the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi
What’s the record of both sides at the venue this season?
DC - P4 W1 L3
SRH - P4 W2 L2
Incidentally, one of their two H2H matches in the group stages, which was convincingly won by SRH, was played in Abu Dhabi and SRH played their Eliminator against RCB at the same venue as well. Fair to say SRH will have an advantage walking into Sunday’s encounter.
What’s the H2H record of the two sides this season?
First meeting: SRH beat DC by 15 runs in Abu Dhabi
Second meeting: SRH beat DC by 88 runs in Dubai
Again, David Warner’s men will have a clear psychological edge heading into Qualifier 2.
Delhi Capitals - The Gameplan
Going by form and momentum, Sunday’s clash, in all fairness, should be a mismatch. On one hand you have the Sunrisers who have won 5 of their last 6 games and on the other you have Delhi who have lost 5 of their last 6 encounters. Add to this the confidence level of the players, the two sides’ H2H record this season and how they’ve performed in Abu Dhabi and there is seemingly no way Delhi can emerge as victors on Sunday. Yet funny things happen in the IPL and thus there is no reason why the Capitals cannot turn things around with an inspired tactic or two.
Problem child 1: Solving their diabolic top-order which is in complete disarray at the moment.
What can they do to solve it?
Chuck Prithvi Shaw out of the team and push Rahane down. Let’s be honest, in the form and state of mind he’s currently in, Sunrisers could open the bowling with Warner and Shreevats Goswami and yet dismiss Shaw for a single-digit score. There is simply no way he should be in the team come Sunday, let alone open. However, just replacing him with Rahane in the view of adding more stability would be a lazy move. It is time for a complete revamp: Marcus Stoinis should open with Shimron Hetmyer coming in at three.
The conservatism in Delhi’s top-order has been excruciating. Across three of their last five games, they’ve not scored over 36 runs in the powerplay and game after game, regardless of how many wickets they’ve lost up-front, they’ve been content with letting the opposition control the pace of the game. This needs to end. Opening with Stoinis, who averages 55 as an opener in T20 cricket, is a no-brainer - because one, he can bat long unlike Shaw and two, he can up the ante at will unlike Rahane - but what will be vital is to have an able counter-puncher at No.3. This season, Iyer and Rahane have struck at 103.6 and 100.0 inside the first 8 overs and that has served detrimental to the side.
However, drafting Hetmyer in at 3 and giving him the license could change the entire dynamic. Hetmyer’s SR this season of 140.81 is the second best for any DC player, behind Stoinis, and the No.3 position, where he averages 30.3, is by far the West Indian’s most successful slot in T20 cricket. He also boasts of a significantly better SR (120) inside the first 8 overs in his T20 career than both Rahane and Iyer. Getting off to a blinder in the powerplay against SRH would be imperative as David Warner’s men boast the best record in the middle-overs amongst all sides. RCB, in both their previous two meetings against SRH, made the grave error of letting the SRH bowlers dictate terms - they scored 32 and 30 in the powerplay - and paid a heavy price for the same.
What happens to Pant, Iyer and Rahane?
As radical as it sounds, in the batting order we’ve suggested above, DC would have no option but to use all three of Pant, Iyer and Rahane based on the situation. While Rahane can be slotted in a Willamson-esque role, the duo of Iyer and Pant can be looked at as potential finishers. Given both Iyer and Pant have fared poorly this season whenever they’ve attempted to rebuild, and given their match-ups versus the SRH bowlers are not so great anyway, a far better option for the side would be to give the two the license at the back-end, preferably with the platform having already been set by the Top 4. Between overs 12-20 this season, Iyer and Pant have struck at 157.5 and 143.2 respectively, which is a significant improvement on their overall season SR of 123.36 and 109.61.
Problem Child 2: Seeing the back of David Warner early
Get David Warner early and you instantly become favourites against SRH. No, it is the truth. Despite chasing a modest target of 132, it took an otherworldly Kane Williamson masterclass for SRH to get over the line versus RCB after they lost Warner early. Let him take off and well, you’re doomed. Delhi, of all teams, know the truth behind this statement.
How can it be done?
Open the bowling with Ravichandran Ashwin and persist with him for at least three overs before pulling the plug on him upfront.
How will that work?
This can be broken down into two parts: one, Ashwin is ridiculously strong and effective against the lefties, particularly inside the powerplay, and two, Warner does not like facing Ashwin.
Let us get to part one first. Across his entire IPL career, Ashwin has an ER of 6.25 against the lefties and has dismissed them 46 times. This is an incredible record per se, but it gets even better inside the powerplay. In the first six overs of IPL games, Ashwin boasts an ER of 5.85 versus the lefties and has scalped 19 wickets. This season, his overall record versus the southpaws has been ‘okay’ - 7 wickets at ER 7.32 - but inside the powerplay, he’s been lethal as ever: he’s maintained an ER of 6.68 and has struck thrice. The problem, though, is that Delhi have under-bowled him in the first six - just 8.5 overs all season - and have not trusted or persisted with him enough. This was evident in DC’s last game versus MI where, despite Ashwin trapping Rohit in front and troubling de Kock in the very second over, he was not given another over until the 6th. He eventually won his battle with de Kock in the eight over, but against SRH, the Capitals could ill-afford to repeat the mistake. They need to gamble relentlessly and bowl Ashwin up-front; that will be their best bet of getting Warner out early.
Why? Because Warner has struggled against Ashwin, historically. In 82 balls he’s faced against Ashwin in his T20 career, Warner has struck at just 112.20 and has been dismissed thrice. In fact, Ashwin got the better off the SRH skipper in their previous face-off, and just took 8 balls to do so. Given Warner’s ludicrously dominant H2H records against every other Delhi bowler, it simply goes unsaid that Ashwin will be DC’s best - if not only bet - to tame the beast that is Warner.
Sunrisers Hyderabad - The Gameplan
Five words is all that we have for SRH - More of the same, please. A four match winning streak, a 2-0 H2H record this season, match-up dominance, in form players and the advantage of having played in Abu Dhabi only two days ago - SRH have everything they could ask for in their favour. All they need to ensure is to ride the momentum and replicate everything they’ve been doing from the past week and a half. Positivity with the bat - even minus Wriddhiman Saha - and discipline with the ball should see them overpower a disorganized Delhi side barring a miracle, which looks unlikely to come from the Capitals.
Other important pointers
a) Delhi have criminally under-utilized Harshal Patel this season. They would need to draft him in for Shaw (Hetmyer for Sams) and utilize his cutters to maximum effect.
b) SRH would need to back Nadeem even if he goes for runs (which he most probably won’t). Aside from Iyer striking at 96.0 versus left-armers this season, Pant’s average of 22.16 is his lowest number against any of the five main bowling techniques. Stoinis has struggled against left-arm spinners this season too, having taken just 20 from the 23 balls he’s faced against them.
c) Priyam Garg has endured a tough time with the bat of late, but his struggles have stemmed from facing leg-spin (SR of 65.5 in 29 balls). Minus leg-spinners, Garg has struck at 138.5 in IPL 2020, so in the assumption that Delhi will not pick rookie Praveen Dubey in their XI, it would be wise for SRH to stick to Garg, despite there being a temptation to potentially play Abhishek Sharma. Garg being a livewire on the field helps too - DC have been involved in quite a few run-outs this season.