With Iyer back, the Capitals should be able to unleash Nortje alongside Rabada once more
These two teams finished at opposite ends of the table during the first leg of IPL 2021. The Delhi Capitals had everything going their way in that period – Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw ruled the powerplay, their bowlers shone through – as they climbed to the top of the table with six wins in eight matches. There’s only more good news for them coming into the second half: Shreyas Iyer, one of their best batters last season, has returned from injury. And he’s feeling “on top of the world”. They also have a guy who wants to be the best finisher in the world. All this means they have pretty much everything in place to secure their third consecutive playoffs spot.
Meanwhile, it was not all good for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the India leg of this season. Their captain David Warner was replaced – and dropped – halfway through the first leg as a result of his waning form. They fielded 21 players in the first half of IPL 2021, and none of their quicks played all seven matches.
While they had a few commendable individual bowling performances, their batting let them down on most occasions, and as a result, they could win just one out of their seven games. This time around, they also don’t have Jonny Bairstow, who was their highest run-scorer in the first leg.
They will be hoping to find inspiration from their 2020 campaign in the UAE when they made the playoffs, but it doesn’t look that easy for now. A lot rests on Warner and their captain Kane Williamson to turn their campaign around.
In the news
Sunrisers have been dealt a blow ahead of the match on Wednesday with pacer T Natarajan testing positive for Covid-19*. According to an IPL release, he has isolated himself from the rest of the squad and is currently asymptomatic. Allrounder Vijay Shankar, net bowler G Periyasamy and four other Sunrisers backroom staff, who have been identified as his close contacts, are also isolating, while the rest of the contingent has tested negative in the RT-PCR test conducted in the morning.
Sunrisers have brought in Sherfane Rutherford as Bairstow’s replacement. The middle-order batter might not be a like-for-like replacement for Bairstow, but he comes into the IPL with enough T20 game-time and a decent form behind him. In 11 matches in the recently-concluded Caribbean Premier League, he scored 262 runs at a strike rate of 127.18, with three half-centuries, playing for the champions St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. It remains to be seen how he will fit into the Sunrisers’ team combination but they could use someone like him to bolster their middle order.
Last week, the Capitals announced that Rishabh Pant will continue as captain for the rest of the 2021 season despite regular captain Iyer having returned from a shoulder injury. The Capitals have also roped in the Australian bowler Ben Dwarshuis as Chris Woakes’ replacement for the rest of the season, while left-arm pacer Kulwant Khejroliya has replaced M Siddharth.
Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt & wk), 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Shimron Hetmyer, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Avesh Khan
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner, 2 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Kane Williamson (capt), 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 Abdul Samad, 7 Jason Holder/ Mohammad Nabi, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Shahbaz Nadeem, 11 Sandeep Sharma
- With Bairstow absent, the Sunrisers will need to find an opening partner for David Warner. While Wriddhiman Saha has often filled in and done an excellent job, another option could be to use Manish Pandey there. While Pandey’s overall strike rate in the IPL since 2019 is a modest 127.92, he has enjoyed batting in the powerplay, where he’s scored his runs at 149.30 – the highest strike rate of all batters in the IPL to have batted at least 20 times in the powerplay since 2019. And he’s scored at that rate while only being dismissed twice in 215 balls.
- With Iyer returning to their line-up, the Capitals might be tempted to play the extra fast bowler in Anrich Nortje, who teamed up so well with Kagiso Rabada during their run to the final last season in the UAE. This would mean leaving out one of their overseas batters, most likely Steven Smith, who bats in Iyer’s usual position at No. 3, and who didn’t enjoy the greatest of runs during the first half of the season: 104 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 111.82. This would mean the Capitals retain their lower-middle-order hitting pair of Marcus Stoinis and Shimron Hetmyer, with the latter having enjoyed a tremendous run during the first half of the season, clattering 84 runs off just 41 balls while being dismissed only once in six innings.
Stats that matter
- Until the end of the 2019 season, Rishabh Pant had a strike rate of 162.69 in the IPL. Since the start of the 2020 season, however, that figure has plummeted to 120.08, the second-lowest strike rate of all batters who have scored at least 300 runs in this period, behind Shubman Gill. Pant’s rate of hitting sixes – one every 35.6 balls – is the second-lowest among these batters, behind Virat Kohli.
- Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s economy rate for an IPL season had never crossed 8, until this season. During the first leg in India, he went at 9.10 per over, while only picking up three wickets in five games. With the T20 World Cup around the corner, he’ll hope he can turn his form around quickly.
- R Ashwin needs one wicket to become the third Indian bowler to bag 250 in T20 cricket, after Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra, who both have 262 each.
* The preview was updated following news of T Natarajan’s positive Covid-19 test
Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo