A washout in Hyderabad on May 16 confirmed a playoffs berth for Sunrisers Hyderabad. They’ll now be keen to have two shots at making the IPL 2024 final by finishing in the top two. For that, they need a victory in their final league game against the spirited but inconsistent Punjab Kings and hope that Rajasthan Royals, who are on a losing streak despite sealing a top-four finish, lose their last match against Kolkata Knight Riders. But it all depends on the weather for Sunday’s afternoon game, and the forecast doesn’t look too promising.

Sunrisers, who have brought the house down with their ferocious batting in this IPL, will look to sustain that intensity going up against the Kings who will be missing several key players in their last match. The hosts, however, have had a seven-day break after their fiery performance against Lucknow Super Giants, which has extended to 10 days of non-action now due to the abandoned match. Will there be any rustiness?

The Kings, having not made the playoffs for 10 successive seasons now, will be hoping to sign off with a consolation win. They come into this game with some confidence, having overpowered the Royals in their previous match, but have a severely depleted side with the bulk of their overseas players having departed. And even in their last victory, it was the middle order that stood up and delivered, with their top-order woes not showing any signs of relenting. PBKS’s top three have scored the least runs among all teams in this IPL and have the least number of fifty-plus scores as well, highlighting their major issue this season. Can they find a way around it in their last match?

When: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Punjab Kings, Sunday, May 19 at 15:30 IST

Where: Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad

What to expect: High-scoring games have been the flavour of Hyderabad and this match too is expected to adhere to the norm. Showers disrupted the practice sessions on Saturday (May 18) and more rain is forecast for the afternoon-evening period on the match day.

Head to head: SRH 15 – 7 PBKS. Sunrisers have won their last two matches against the Kings, including their away match earlier in this edition in Mullanpur which they won by 2 runs, defending 182.

Teams watch

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Injury/Availability: Sunrisers do not have any fitness concerns at the moment.

Tactics & Matchups: Bhuvneshwar Kumar has favourable numbers against Prabhsimran Singh, having dismissed him twice in 10 deliveries in the IPL – and three dismissals in 11 deliveries including the 2023 Syed Mushtaq Ali match between Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Bhuvneshwar has also kept Rilee Rossouw quiet, giving away only 5 runs in 10 deliveries, although he’s yet to dismiss him, while the South African has scored 14 runs in 12 balls with one dismissal against Pat Cummins.

Probable XI: Abhishek Sharma, Travis Head, Nitish Reddy, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Abdul Samad, Shahbaz Ahmed, Sanvir Singh, Pat Cummins (c), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Vijayakanth Viyaskanth. [Impact sub: T Natarajan].

Punjab Kings

Injury/Availability: Jitesh Sharma had turned up the captains’ meeting before the start of the season with Shikhar Dhawan ill and his deputy Sam Curran yet to join the team. Right at the end of the season, the keeper gets an opportunity to essay the role in a match too as Dhawan continues his recovery from a shoulder injury while Sam Curran has left for England along with Jonny Bairstow to join the national side for the T20I series against Pakistan. With Kagiso Rabada, Liam Livingstone, Sikandar Raza and Chris Woakes also unavailable, PBKS have only two overseas options – Rilee Rossouw and Nathan Ellis – for their match against SRH. Meanwhile, they are likely to include Atharva Taide as one of their openers, replacing Bairstow, and perhaps bring in Rishi Dhawan in place of Curran.

Tactics & Matchups: Rahul Chahar is a good option for PBKS to be used early, with the legspinner having accounted for Abhishek Sharma twice in 10 deliveries for only 7 runs. Harshal Patel matches up well against Heinrich Klaasen, with two dismissals in 14 balls for 22 runs.

Probable XI: Prabhsimran Singh, Atharva Taide, Rilee Rossouw, Shashank Singh, Jitesh Sharma (c & wk), Ashutosh Sharma, Harpreet Brar, Rishi Dhawan, Harshal Patel, Nathan Ellis, Rahul Chahar. [Impact sub: Arshdeep Singh].

Did you know?

– The 635 runs and three fifty-plus scores scored by the Punjab Kings openers is the least for any team in this IPL. Meanwhile, PBKS’s batters from Nos. 4-8 have contributed 843 runs, the second most in this IPL after LSG (940)

– Out of the 583 runs he has scored in this season so far, Travis Head has got 385 runs (66.03%) in the powerplay alone. He averages 128.33 in this phase with a strike rate of 220. His opening partner Abhishek Sharma has scored 285 (71.07%) of his tally of 401 runs in the powerplay, at a strike rate of 205.04

– Sunrisers have struck the most sixes in this IPL – 146 – while their 171 fours is the least among all teams in this edition. Abhishek Sharma is second on the sixes chart (35), just one behind Nicholas Pooran. Abhishek, Travis Head and Heinrich Klaasen have combined to strike 97 sixes.

(Stats updated till Match 67 of IPL 2024)

What they said:

“It’s not ideal. You prefer to have some good match practice before you go into the finals. But we can’t control that. But what we do have confidence is that we’ve played some pretty good cricket to make the playoffs. Ideally you would play some competitive matches before you play your final – whether it’s an eliminator or the qualifier” – Simon Helmot, SRH assistant coach, on the possibility of SRH entering the playoffs after a lengthy break should the SRH-PBKS match be affected by rain.

“The mood is more positive in the dressing room than before because we have nothing to lose now. The season has been inconsistent for us. But we played really good cricket and we had many positives throughout the season. In cricket, things can change in an instant. We just missed out on some luck” – Jitesh Sharma, PBKS captain for their final game of the season.

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