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Lions batsmen vs Sunrisers bowlers, the defining contest of Qualifier-2

NEW DELHI:In 15 matches, the Gujarat Lions batsmen have aggregated 2161 runs. Sunrisers Hyderabad has a bag of 77 wickets. Does that make it a contest between Lions batsmen and Sunrisers bowlers? If they play to their strengths, this statistic will confirm the nature of Qualifier-2 at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on Friday. One can expect a combat of skills.

James Faulkner, who has played just seven games this season, will be keen to get an opportunity against Sunrisers on Friday.—PHOTO: SANDEEP SAXENA

With a place in the Indian Premier League (IPL) final beckoning, the penultimate match of the competition shall test the temperament and cricketing acumen of some of the best players in the game.

Sunrisers have executed their plans well and look to extend their stay in the tournament. “That is the good thing about this team. Everyone is still willing to learn while we are still playing. Everyone is adapting as we are going along in this tournament,” said Sunrisers skipper David Warner ahead of the match.

Warner leads the team’s batting table with 686 runs, followed by Shikhar Dhawan, who is peaking towards crafting a match-defining knock. Kotla, his home ground, can be an inspiring stage for Dhawan, who must guard against flamboyance early in his innings.

This batting pair’s efforts are complemented by the lethal combination of Bhuvneshwar Kumar (21 wickets) and the amazingly confident Mustafizur Rahman (16 wickets). Barinder Sran has adapted well too, giving the Sunrisers attack the incisive edge over Lions.

Close battle
Warner’s tactical assessment of the upcoming battle suggests it will be close. “Obviously both teams don’t really have any tall bowlers, so you are going to have to use your skill and execution with the ball to reduce totals here.

“We know who their key players are. They have got very good firing power. Dwayne Smith, doctor, has been playing very well.

“He has been coming in and playing his game. And we know the two boys up front are going to come out hard, and that’s their game. That’s how they play.”

Smith is a matter-of-fact cricketer and possesses the individual brilliance to turn a match on its head.

His all-round proficiency (323 runs and seven wickets) is the cushion that Lions have enjoyed in their debut season. The team has five batsmen (Suresh Raina, Smith, Aaron Finch, Dinesh Karthik and Brendon McCullum) who have crossed the 300-mark, showcasing its collective strength. Dhawal Kulkarni and Dwayne Bravo have had encouraging success with the ball.

“For us,” averred Warner, “it is about starting well as a unit whether we bat or bowl first, make sure we execute our plans.”

The same holds true for Lions, a team that has grown with every match. Sunrisers won both league matches against Lions but the immediate past does not matter in this format as KKR learnt the other night.

Expect a forceful meeting at the Kotla.