Table toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad will aim to seal their Indian Premier League (IPL) play-off berth when they take on a rejuvenated Kings XI Punjab at the Punjab Association Stadium here on Sunday.With seven wins out of 11, the David Warner-led side would hope to shed their rusty show in the last outing against Delhi Daredevils and ensure their entry into the play-offs with a win on Sunday.On the other hand, Punjab have largely disappointed so far this season, having won just four of their 11 matches. However, ever since Murali Vijay took over the captaincy, Punjab have been a much improved outfit. They thrashed defending champions Mumbai Indians by seven wickets in their last match, a result which saw them climb out of the bottom of the eight-team table to the seventh spot with eight points.Before the Mumbai game, they nearly beat Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), falling short by just a single run, largely due to some needless attempts at flamboyant, improvised shots by the batsmen.
Previous captain David Miller was unable to inspire the team, either with his leadership or his batting. Glenn Maxwell, usually an explosive batsman almost tailor made for the 20-over format, has not really managed to strike form while South African veteran Hashim Amla has been a disappointment in the three matches he has played.The bowlers also need to pull up their socks. Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma have done well for the most part, but left-arm spinner Axar Patel has been a bit inconsistent. Australian pacer Marcus Stoinis has also struggled with his consistency, although he showed some excellent form against Mumbai with figures of 4/15.
Punjab face a do-or-die task in their remaining three league phase matches. Even if Punjab manage to win those games, they will still have to depend on their net run rate to pull them through. But if they manage to continue their new found form, a ticket to the play-offs, although difficult, can not be ruled out.
Hyderabad on the other side, are in a much better position. The visitors have amassed 14 points, with seven wins in their 11 matches. Their success has largely depended on a strong bowling attack spearheaded by the pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra and Mustafizur Rahman. Openers David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan have led the way with the bat. Dhawan, who was going through an extended run of poor form, flopped in their first few matches before finding his groove. All-rounders Yuvraj Singh and Moises Henriques have also been impressive.Given the overall performance of the two teams this season, Hyderabad will start as the favourites. But they will do well to be wary of Punjab's new found form.