IPL 2017: Depleted challengers take on defending champions in season opener

Head to head

Overall: Sunrisers won five, RCB four

Last season: Sunrisers won two, RCB one

In the news

Last year’s runners-up and regular favourites RCB will go into the first game of the 2017 season without their two best batsmen, who were also their first two choices as captain. Virat Kohli was ruled out of the initial stages of the tournament because of the shoulder injury he suffered during the Ranchi Test against Australia, and AB de Villiers was sidelined by a back problem but is expected to be fit for RCB’s second game.

They are also without their first-choice wicketkeeper-batsman KL Rahul, who played the Tests against Australia despite carrying a shoulder injury, for the entire IPL season, while middle-order batsman Sarfaraz Khan injured his leg during practice and is likely to be unavailable for the whole tournament as well.

The defending champions Sunrisers are without Bangladesh fast bowler Mustafizur Rahman, who is playing in Sri Lanka until April 8, but have no other injury concerns at the moment.

The likely XIs

Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Moises Henriques, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Naman Ojha (wk), 7 Ben Cutting/Chris Jordan, 8 Bipul Sharma, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Ashish Nehra

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Mandeep Singh, 3 Travis Head, 4 Shane Watson (capt), 5 Kedar Jadhav (wk), 6 Sachin Baby, 7 Stuart Binny, 8 Pawan Negi, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Tymal Mills, 11 Aniket Choudhary/Harshal Patel

Stats that matter

  • The average first-innings IPL score in Hyderabad since 2014 is 158, and 12 out of 15 matches in that period have been won by the team chasing. Overall, Sunrisers have won seven and lost eight games at home.
  • David Warner has scored 716 runs at home for Sunrisers Hyderabad at an average of 60 and strike rate of 163. In 2016, when he led Sunrisers to the title, Warner made 324 runs at home at an average of 54 and strike rate of 160.
  • Warner scores at more than ten runs per over against Shane Watson (26 runs off 15 balls, one dismissal) and Yuzvendra Chahal (90 off 51, one dismissal) in the IPL. When batting for Sunrisers, Warner has scored 448 runs in seven innings at a strike rate of 168 against RCB.
  • Chris Gayle has scored only 77 runs in four IPL innings in Hyderabad. However, he has scored 94 runs off 63 balls from Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the IPL, 33 off 23 from Ashish Nehra, 19 off 8 from Ben Cutting and 23 off 8 from Moises Henriques. All four of those bowlers have dismissed Gayle once in the IPL.
  • No batsman in the Sunrisers squad has faced fast bowler Tymal Mills in T20 cricket before. Ditto for the Royal Challengers batsman facing legspinner Rashid Khan. Since January 2015, Mills has the best economy (7.25 per over) in T20s during the end overs (16 to 20).
  • Bhuvneshwar has bowled nearly a hundred overs in the Powerplay for Sunrisers. His economy in those overs is only 6.11. Nehra’s is 7.39, for 112 deliveries in the Powerplay. Their corresponding figures in the death overs are 8.85 and 8.66.
  • Watson scored 171 runs off 123 balls in nine innings in his most recent T20 gig – the Pakistan Super League. Travis Head, who could play for RCB on Wednesday, made only 76 runs off 80 balls in five innings in the recent Big Bash League.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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