SRH vs RR: The five major talking points

Smith vs Warner. Bhuvneshwar vs Rahane, Williamson's return and the pressure on Unadkat.

SRH vs RR IPL 2019 Talking Points

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Game eight of the 2019 IPL pits together two winless teams, with each including one of the two Australian cricket superstars coming off a one-year ban for ball-tampering. Hosts Sunrisers Hyderabad, with David Warner back at the top, clash with Rajasthan Royals who have Steve Smith in their ranks.

Ahead of today’s IPL match, here are the major talking points:

Warner vs Smith

One year after they were banned for ball-tampering in a Test match in South Africa, Warner and Smith will meet in the IPL. The pair – never again to be named Australian captain and vice-captain – have played in T20 leagues in Canada, Bangladesh and the Caribbean over the past 12 months but this is where the focus is: the IPL, the biggest franchise cricket tournament in the world. (VIDEO: Winless Rajasthan and Hyderabad clash in chase for first points)

Warner and Smith are towering figures for SRH and RR respectively, both as top-order batsmen and tacticians. Whatever happens on Friday, plenty of focus will be on these two Australians.

Will Williamson return?

The management has said that the decision will be taken today before the toss. Kane Williamson, who led Hyderabad to last year’s IPL final, was recently sidelined with shoulder injury. He did not play on Sunday, but having batted in the nets Thursday all signs are that Williamson will slot back in. Which is huge for Hyderabad.

Kane Williamson trained with SRH on Thursday in Hyderabad
Kane Williamson trained with SRH on Thursday in Hyderabad. © IANS

If so, who goes out? 

Williamson’s return would foreseeably push out Englishman Jonny Bairstow from the XI unless the management decides to sit out Shakib Al Hasan.

With Warner back, SRH have a superb starter and the temptation to include Bairstow alongside the Australia will be great. Add in Williamson at No 3, and that is a top order worth its weight in gold. Shakib, however, is a very experienced campaigner whose success with bat and ball have been vital for Sunrisers.

A very tough call. If Bairstow goes out, SRH will also need to draft in a wicketkeeper and drop another Indian player.

Will Bhuvneshwar get his hundred?

The spearhead of Hyderabad’s bowling, Bhuvneshwar Kumar needs four wickets to become the first SRH bowler to 100 wickets in the IPL. In 72 games, the seam bowler has claimed 96 wickets for Hyderabad at an average of 20.94, strike-rate of 17.08 and economy of 7.35.

The next best for the franchise is Rashid Khan with 39 from 32 matches.

In a subplot to today’s match, Bhuvneshwar has dismissed Rajasthan captain Ajinkya Rahane six times in 13 matches. In those matches, Rahane has scored 71 runs off 78 balls faced from Bhuvneshwar.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar went wicketless in SRH's loss to KKR on Sunda
Bhuvneshwar Kumar went wicketless in SRH’s loss to KKR on Sunday. © BCCI

Pressure on Unadkat

The joint highest earner at December’s auction when he was re-purchased by Royals for a whopping Rs 8.4 crore, Jaydev Unadkat has plenty riding on him.

The left-arm pace bowler, capped 18 times by India, did not have a good 2018 IPL. In 15 games, he claimed 11 wickets an 44.18 apiece and with an economy rate of 9.65.

In Rajasthan’s opener versus Punjab, Unadkat conceded 44 runs in three wicketless overs of which 19 came in one over to Chris Gayle in a period in which the West Indian scored 51 runs off 21 balls.

Against the likes of Warner and Bairstow and with Vijay Shankar, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Deepak Hooda to follow, Unadkat could run into trouble if he has another off day.

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