Currently sitting third and fourth in the points table, the two surprise packages of this year's IPL square up on Saturday morning in a pivotal match regarding the race for the play-offs. Paul Krishnamurty argues that, not for the first time, Sunrisers are being under-estimated...
Rajasthan Royals vs Sunrisers Hyderabad
Start Time: 11:30 BST
TV: Live on ITV and itv.com
Following defeats to RCB and Chennai, Rajasthan have slipped to fourth place in the points table, albeit with a game in hand. While there's no disgrace in losing to those heavyweight sides, the latter defeat did expose their limitations. A superb 185 total emphasised the depth of their batting line-up, but a lightweight bowling attack couldn't defend it. The obvious conclusion to draw is that Royals are more effective when chasing, once the likes of Watson, Dravid and Hodge know exactly what is required.
Similarly, these early pace-setters slipped to third place after failing to defend a total against that awesome CSK batting line-up on Thursday, but there was still some good news as Shikhar Dhawan returned in style to top-score with 63 not out after missing the opening fortnight. One of Indian cricket's emerging superstars, Dhawan carried this side last year and his absence left them too dependent on a classy bowling attack led by Dale Steyn and Amit Mishra. Add powerful all-rounders Thisara Perera and Darren Sammy into the mix and you now have a line-up perfectly geared towards T20 cricket. Given a prominent position in the table already, Sunrisers look under-estimated in the outright market at odds of 14.013/1.
Unless early wickets fall, Jaipur is generally a good pitch for batting. Only two of the last 11 first innings in IPL here produced scores below 140, whereas 170 was reached five times, which is more than most grounds. Rajasthan's strength is batting and Sunrisers should improve in that regard with Dhawan back, so I'll be looking to back 150 or more at 1.758/11 or better.
Given relatively one-sided odds, Sunrisers must rate the bet at 2.47/5. That is usually a good trading price about any team in IPL and the visitors seem to be unfairly judged on this team's dire performances last year under the guise of Deccan Chargers. With Dhawan back, Hyderabad are a threat to all as tournament favourites CSK nearly found to their cost on Thursday.
With Dale Steyn presenting a formidable threat with the new ball, it may be harder than usual for Shane Watson and Ajinkya Rahane to get the Rajasthan innings off to a flier. Brad Hodge is enjoying a fine IPL, topping his side's averages with 46 despite a disadvantageous middle-order position. At around 6.05/1, the Aussie finisher is fair value to continue his good work.
One could make a case for numerous big-hitting all-rounders in this line-up, but on both past and recent IPL form, Sunrisers' fate hinges most on Shikhar Dhawan. Whereas none of his team-mates average more than 27 this season, he hit 63 not out on his first start and was the third highest scorer in last year's IPL. You won't go too far wrong backing this flamboyant opener at 3.814/5 for every Sunrisers match.