It’s that time of the season where every sub-plot in a game is scrutinized, because every result will have a significant impact not just on the teams involved in that game but also on the tournament in general. As we head into the final leg of IPL 2024, Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals are the only teams who look to be sitting with any degree of comfort. The other two spots are still up for grabs, with Chennai Super Kings, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Lucknow Super Giants among the frontrunners to claim them.

Wednesday’s clash between SRH and LSG in Hyderabad is potentially a straight shootout as the winner shall gain a significant edge in the playoffs race, particularly with CSK boasting of a vastly superior net run rate at this point. All three teams have six wins and five losses apiece from their 11 games, and there isn’t a lot to choose between the net run rates of SRH and LSG. All this points towards a potential high-voltage clash that could have a lot riding on it. Not surprisingly, both sides have endured a similar graph in terms of performances.

SRH started the season with a bang, winning five of their first seven games and seemed to have gotten a head start to the playoffs race. Their refreshing high-intent approach with the bat blew teams away, leading to record-breaking totals and made them a side that nobody wanted to bowl at. However, the home side have just one win from their last four games, and that also was a very narrow one-run win against Rajasthan Royals at home. While Travis Head continues to motor along, the form of his opening partner Abhishek Sharma and middle-order enforcer Heinrich Klaasen appears to have dwindled.

SRH were also forced to drop the out-of-form Aiden Markram for all-rounder Marco Jansen but that is another move which hasn’t worked. The batting has tapered off a bit, particularly on relatively testing surfaces and Pat Cummins’ men need to step it up before things go out of hand. While the batting has stagnated a bit, the bowling unit has certainly warmed up to the task led by Cummins himself with great support from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and T Natarajan. If SRH can rediscover their batting mojo, they could be hard to stop, especially at Hyderabad.

Lucknow Super Giants also began the season well, notching up three victories in their first four games but have struggled for consistency thereafter with alternate wins and losses. KL Rahul’s side haven’t had a winless drought as such but they have also suffered from lack of winning momentum which is crucial in the T20 format. The skipper himself hasn’t really fired on a regular basis and while he is in the Orange Cap race once again, the opening batter hasn’t had the impact that one would expect of him. Injuries have forced changes in LSG’s bowling combinations as well with rookie speedgun Mayank Yadav lasting barely lasting three games.

Mohsin Khan also suffered an injury early on but has come back towards the latter half of the season. The problem for LSG has been the lack of sync in performances between the batting and bowling departments. When one part of their game has clicked, the other hasn’t and their most recent clash against KKR saw them being blown away across all facets of the game. They do have a strong all-round side with all bases covered, so it should be about translating the squad potential into consistent on-field performances.

In such a high-stakes encounter, small margins may well decide the outcome of the game. There are several possible sub-plots in this fixture but how LSG’s wily bowling fares against SRH’s batting will be the main event.

When: Wednesday, May 8 at 19:30 IST

Where: Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad

What to expect: Surfaces at this venue have been extremely good for batting in recent times, starting from the ODI World Cup late last year to the ongoing IPL season. Average score batting first this season has been a shade above 212 with the 200-run mark breached thrice in the four games.

Head to head:SRH 0-3 LSG. The visitors chased down 183 to win last year’s fixture at this venue.

Team watch:

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Injuries and availability:SRH don’t have any concerns with respect to fitness and availability.

Tactics and matchups:

Pat Cummins has been outstanding in the middle overs this season. The SRH captain may have only picked six wickets during this phase (overs 7-15) but has an exceptional economy rate of 7.39 across 18 overs bowled – a tremendous stat considering the high-scoring season that this year has been. Cummins’ role will be pivotal against LSG’s enforcers in Marcus Stoinis, Nicholas Pooran and Deepak Hooda. SRH will be tempted to bring in Glenn Phillips who has been due to get a game for some time now. Marco Jansen will be the one to make way in such a scenario with Jaydev Unadkat expected to slot back in. There could also be a temptation to unleash the x-factor of Umran Malik.

Probable XI:Travis Head, Abhishek Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Nitish Reddy, Heinrich Klaasen(wk), Glenn Phillips, Abdul Samad, Shahbaz Ahmed, Pat Cummins, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat/Umran Malik. [Impact sub: T Natarajan]

Lucknow Super Giants

Injuries/Availability: Apart from Mayank Yadav who is unlikely to play a part in the season finale, LSG have no concerns with injuries.

Tactics and matchups:

Mohsin Khan has been devastating against left-hand batters with seven wickets from 54 deliveries at an economy of 8.14. The left-arm seamer has also been potent with the new ball with five wickets in the PowerPlay and an economy of just 8.14. So, LSG will hope he can tie down SRH’s dynamic left-left opening pair of Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma. LSG will ponder about bringing back Quinton de Kock into their line-up, which could see Ashton Turner sitting out.

Probable XI:KL Rahul(c), Quinton de Kock, Marcus Stoinis, Nicholas Pooran, Deepak Hooda, Ayush Badoni, Krunal Pandya, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohsin Khan, Naveen-ul-Haq, Yash Thakur. [Impact player – Arshin Kulkarni]

Did you know?

– Nitish Reddy has been an under-rated middle overs enforcer for SRH, striking at 164.4 during this phase (overs 7-15) with eight fours and 11 sixes.

– Marcus Stoinis has demolished pace this season, averaging 105 against them at an impressive strike rate of 161.54 with 23 fours and eight sixes.

What they said:

“It’s pretty clear for us, if you want to get to the top four, you got to win all the games. That will give us a little bit of freedom to go out there and be a little bit more fearless, little bit brave to take on the game.” – KL Rahul wants LSG to show more intent

“We like playing at home, we’ll wait and see what’s ahead of us. Hopefully a few more fireworks.” – Pat Cumminshopes that the SRH template at Hyderabad gets them back in the zone

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