Do-or-die contest for Punjab Kings to keep playoffs hopes alive
Sharjah, September 25, 2021
Punjab Kings would hope to forget the ghosts of their two-run defeat to Rajasthan Royals as soon as possible, and look ahead to garnering a few points in the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Sharjah International Stadium later on Saturday.
Currently sitting seventh and eighth, respectively, on the points table, the game will have big ramifications for both sides if they are to keep the playoffs dreams alive in the Indian Premier League this season.
For Punjab Kings skipper KL Rahul, the clash against SRH is a virtual do-or-die one, with a win being extremely important to keep the franchise in the hunt.
SRH, the 2016 champions, have a better head-to-head record against Punjab Kings, and were the winners the last time the two locked horns in 2021. Nevertheless, the spoils have always been shared in the league stages when PBKS have played against Hyderabad since 2018. KL Rahul's side will fondly remember last season where they managed to defend 127, and would use that as motivation to get another win under their belt later on Saturday.
Jonny Bairstow is the leading run-getter for Sunrisers Hyderabad at the moment, but the Englishman opted out for the UAE leg of the competition. In his absence, Manish Pandey remains the top run scorer with 210 runs in six games. The middle-order batsman has two fifties so far in the competition, and would have a point to prove in these final games after missing out on the India squad for the T20 World Cup.
KL Rahul was the Orange Cap winner in 2020, and could be on course to retain that accolade this time around, too. The Punjab Kings skipper is a little over 40 runs behind leading run getter Shikhar Dhawan of Delhi Capitals despite playing a game less, and made a good start in the UAE as well with a good score against Rajasthan Royals. The 29-year-old remains a vital cog for Punjab Kings going forward, and would be keen to get another big score to help his team on Saturday.
Rashid Khan continues to impress in the IPL, continuing to top the wickets chart for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. The leg spinner has conceded just 43 runs in his last three games against Punjab Kings, picking up six wickets as well in those matches. Punjab Kings batters will look to play the Afghan bowler with caution come Saturday.
Arshdeep Singh has been a revelation for Punjab Kings this year, consistently hitting the right lengths in the death overs and picking up crucial wickets. The left-arm seamer claimed his first IPL fifer against Rajasthan Royals in the opening match here, and would be full of confidence going into the weekend. Arshdeep delivered figures of 3/23 the last time Punjab played Sunrisers Hyderabad in UAE, and his franchise would be optimistic for a similar performance against Kane Williamson's team.