Sunrisers' strident march into tonight's qualifier contrasts starkly with Delhi Capitals' faltering progress
Delhi Capitals may have finished the league stage as the number two side on points, but in tonight's match they will start as the underdogs to Sunrisers Hyderabad who have been on an amazing surge in the past fortnight.
Five consecutive wins, including the 10-wicket win over the Mumbai Indians in the last league match and the six-wicket win over the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the eliminator on Friday, mark out Sunrisers Hyderabad as not only an exciting team to watch, but also dangerous.
Though hit by injuries (Mitch Marsh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kane Williamson, Wriddhiman Saha have been casualties, long or short term), Sunrisers Hyderabad have been able to find adequate replacement, regroup in time, and look like the team to beat.
So remarkable has been their turnaround after losing their first two matches that Sunrisers can afford to leave out senior pro and white ball specialist Jonny Bairstow from the playing eleven without too much worry.
The batting is top heavy and heavily dependent on David Warner, but in crunch situations, other batters have delivered too. Williamson's composed half century and fine partnership with Jason Holder took the team home under pressure against Royal Challengers.
It's in the bowling though that Sunrisers have stood out, more so after Holder's inclusion. The attack now has a fine blend of quality pacers and spinners. Diminutive leg spinner Rashid Khan has been the stand out performer, but the others are only a whit behind.
Sunrisers' strident march into tonight's qualifier contrasts starkly with Delhi Capitals' faltering progress. Though the Capitals finished No. 2 on the points table, it was only after protracted turmoil, stranded as they were on 14 points for a long while.
In the first qualifier of the playoffs, DC then got stuffed by Mumbai Indians. At one stage, DC were 0-3 before going on to lose by a whopping 57-run margin.
Having lost five of their last six matches, DC hardly look the team which had been so impressive at the start so as to draw comparisons with Mumbai Indians.
The winner of tonight's match will meet defending champions MI in the final, but if DC have to be that team, coach Ricky Ponting and skipper Shreyas Iyer will have to lift the players swiftly from the doldrums.
The top order now looks as fragile as fried papadum. Prithvi Shaw's last few scores read 0, 9, 10, 7, 0. It remains to be seen if Shaw will be retained, but others like Ajinkya Rahane and Risbhabh Pant are not in great form either. If Shikhar Dhawan fails to get going, so does DC.
In the bowling too – which looked so classy and penetrative not too long back – DC have some ground to recover, especially with spearhead Kagiso Rabada losing his rhythm and not picking up wickets.
Unless DC recover their mojo quickly, they will find it extremely difficult to quell David Warner's buccaneering team, high on energy and ambition.
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator