Vulnerable Titans face Sunrisers acid test

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Match details

Gujarat Titans (GT) vs Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH)
Ahmedabad, 1530 IST (1000 GMT)

Big picture

A plethora of subplots from outside the cricket field may have helped Gujarat Titans lift themselves to a come-from-behind win against Mumbai Indians in their season opener, but a 63-run defeat away against Chennai Super Kings begs the question: are the Titans of 2024 championship material?

David Miller, for example, has crossed 30 only three times in 15 innings this year and averages 29. His strike rate of 119 this year is also his worst in 13 years, a steep drop from 2023 (135.2) and 2022 (147.2).

Another barometer of the Titans’ performance is Rashid Khan. In their wins – they’ve had 12 of those since 2023 – he comes away with an economy rate of 7.35. But in their losses – seven in the same period – Rashid’s economy rate skyrockets to 10.03. It shows that when he struggles, they struggle too. This used to be rare but since last year’s tournament, he has leaked nine runs an over roughly once every three matches (6 out of 19; 5 of those 6 were losses)

And that’s where the challenge lies as a rampaging Sunrisers Hyderabad arrive fresh off a performance that rewrote IPL record books. Travis Head has his own love story with Ahmedabad since the ODI World Cup final, Abhishek Sharma has carried his form from the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy well and Heinrich Klaasen is the only man to hit 50 T20 sixes this year. With the Narendra Modi Stadium one of the country’s best surfaces for batters, the Titans will need someone to fill the shoes of Mohammed Shami at both ends of their innings.

The Titans, though, can hit back. Barring Pat Cummins, the Sunrisers pacers have gone at 11.93 runs per over in IPL 2024 and it is an area the hosts can exploit, especially their captain Shubman Gill. Ahmedabad is Gill’s favourite venue – 700 runs in 13 innings at an average of nearly 64 and a strike-rate of almost 160 – and with only 37 runs in two innings this season, he will be itching for a sizeable contribution.

Team news and impact player strategy

Gujarat Titans

The Titans are usually predictable with their impact substitutions, so expect fast bowler Mohit Sharma and left-hand batter Sai Sudharsan to swap places. Matthew Wade is also available after missing the first two games playing the Sheffield Shield final. Shahrukh Khan or Abhinav Manohar could be tempting options in the middle order.

Probable XII: 1 Shubman Gill (capt), 2 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 3 Sai Sudharsan, 4 Vijay Shankar, 5 David Miller, 6 Azmatullah Omarzai, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 R Sai Kishore, 10 Spencer Johnson, 11 Umesh Yadav, 12 Mohit Sharma

Sunrisers Hyderabad

After excelling in their season opener, T Natarajan missed Sunrisers’ second game with an unspecified niggle and his availability is unknown. Jaydev Unadkat, his replacement against Mumbai Indians, impressed with his change-ups and could keep his place in the XI. Wanindu Hasaranga has also not yet arrived in India.

As for Impact Player options, Sunrisers could start with medium-pacer Nitish Reddy or fast bowler Umran Malik if bowling first, with Travis Head replacing them in the second innings. Washington Sundar could also be a realistic option against left-hand heavy Titans.

Probable XII: 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Travis Head, 3 Abhishek Sharma, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 6 Abdul Samad, 7 Shahbaz Ahmed, 8 Pat Cummins (capt), 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Mayank Markande, 11 Jaydev Unadkat / T Natarajan, 12 Umran Malik

In the spotlight

In two innings, Vijay Shankar has scored 18 runs in 17 balls. He has not bowled either. Against a high-scoring side like Sunrisers, the Titans could be tempted to play Shahrukh Khan instead to add power to the middle order, especially since he follows a consolidator like Sudharsan at No. 3. Shankar, though, enjoys facing Bhuvneshwar Kumar (16 off 5, strike rate 320) and Jaydev Unadkat (15 off 7, strike rate 214) in T20 cricket.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar is yet to take a wicket in his two IPL 2024 outings and has conceded 104 runs in eight overs. Against both Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians, Bhuvneshwar made promising starts to his spell but ended up leaking big runs in the death overs. As the senior-most bowler in a franchise where he has played since 2014, Bhuvneshwar needs to either find wickets or get his runs down. Ideally, he’d want to do both.

Stats that matter

Gill has historically struggled putting Bhuvneshwar away at the IPL, scoring only 50 runs in 48 balls while being dismissed three times in nine innings. He also has a strike-rate of only 94.4 against Unadkat.

In 23 balls, Abhishek has hit Rashid for three fours and three sixes, averaging a boundary every 3.6 deliveries. His strike-rate against Rashid is 204 overall and this IPL, he is scoring at 226.

Klaasen is hitting a six every 5.4 balls in 2024, behind only Andre Russell’s ball-per-six ratio of 4.6. Fifty of his 53 sixes have come between long-off and deep backward square leg.

Since the start of IPL 2023, the team batting first has won six of the ten IPL games played in Ahmedabad.

Pitch and conditions

Ahmedabad usually offers a true batting surface with enough on offer to keep pacers and spinners interested. Spinners can also use the long square boundaries to good effect. The average first-innings winning score here since 2021 in the IPL is 188. In the last outing at the venue, the Titans defended 168 successfully. Expect a hot afternoon with a peak of 35 degrees during toss time.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx

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