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Cricket news - New-look middle order key to SRH's fortunes

The Warner-Bairstow combination contributed 791 runs in ten innings at 9.78 runs per over last season

The Warner-Bairstow combination contributed 791 runs in ten innings at 9.78 runs per over last season

There aren't too many outfits in the Indian Premier League.that appear settled. And the ones that are settled not only continue to possess the same strengths, but year after the year the weaknesses usually tend to remain the same as well. Sunrisers Hyderabad, despite their riches, aren't lucky enough like Mumbai Indians to not have a glaring weakness in their squad. But like all good teams do, they have worked around it this time by making certain changes to their personnel.

In David Warner, they have perhaps the most consistent batsman in the tournament's history to bank on at the top of the order as always, and his chemistry with Jonny Bairstow last time only added to the oppositions' woes. Intrigue surrounds their middle order, though, following the departures of Yusuf Pathan, Deepak Hooda and Shakib Al Hasan. They have spent a lot of money on young Virat Singh and have also added the likes of Jammu and Kashmir sensation Abdul Samad and former India U-19 captain Priyam Garg to replace the experienced trio.

Even though the spin department depends a lot on Rashid Khan, the likes of Siddarth Kaul and Khaleel Ahmed are more than capable of adapting to the slower surfaces. SRH certainly have what it takes to reach the playoff stages of the tournament but in order to be viewed as title contenders, the new faces will have to deliver.

What's their best XI and why?

Likely XI:David Warner (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Manish Pandey, Virat Singh, Vijay Shankar, Abdul Samad, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul

The Kane Williamson conundrum will pinch SRH once again. A top player will have to be left out at least for the first half of the tournament in search of more balance. Manish Pandey reinvented himself at number 3 at the back end of the tournament last year and SRH will be better served to have the Indian batsman batting at the same spot. To ensure the lower middle order isn't completely inexperienced, Mohammad Nabi's presence is vital. He is also a reliable spin option and he has been in form with noteworthy performances in the CPL. To summarise, it is a top-heavy batting lineup with plenty of Indian pace bowling options.

Rashid Khan's wicket-taking ability has been on the wane

What works to their advantage? (Strengths)

SRH probably have the most reliable opening pair in the IPL. Not only are Warner and Bairstow brutal, they are also extremely consistent. Bairstow's hitting ability against spin will provide some much-needed momentum in the middle overs. In IPL 2019, the pair scored 791 runs in ten innings at 9.78 runs per over with four 100+ partnerships. Since IPL 2016, Warner has scored most runs in the powerplay phase of the innings (1093) at a Bradmanesque average of 99.36 from 43 innings.

In Rashid, they have the world's best leg-spinner in their ranks. But teams were content to play him out in the last edition. Perhaps, a change in strategy in terms of where he bowls can fetch more rewards. And of course, the surfaces are going to be more helpful.

What doesn't work to their advantage? (Weaknesses)

The focus will once again shift towards the middle order. On paper, SRH probably have the weakest middle order and that will be a concern whenever the openers fail to fire. SRH might struggle for wickets considering the personal form of their key bowlers. Wickets in the Powerplay are extremely important and in his last two seasons, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has picked just six in this phase and averages 50+.

As mentioned earlier, Rashid is extremely vital to this bowling attack but his wicket-taking ability has been on the wane.

Rashid Khan in T20s

Even though Billy Stanlake is not expected to feature much, he picked up only 4 wickets in 11 BBL games in the 2019-20 season. Kaul and Basil Thampi were both expensive (ER 9+) and picked six wickets between them in ten games in IPL 2019.

Finishing the innings has also been a perennial issue for SRH and they have scored less than the tournament average in this phase in three of the last four seasons.

Is there an opportunity?

Vijay Shankar has been around for a while and hasn't quite made an impact yet. With the focus on his side's middle order, it is time for the 29-year-old to step up - to not only help SRH, but also put himself back in the national reckoning. Virat Singh and Abdul Samad are expected to bat either side of Vijay which will only add to his responsibility.

From 2014-2017, Bhuvneshwar was the undisputed king with the ball in the world's premium T20 tournament. But he has averaged 35 plus in the last two seasons and the onus is on him to rediscover his mojo. In three years, Nabi has featured only 13 times for SRH and his current form and the conditions in the UAE give him an opportunity to seal his spot for good in that playing XI where the likes of Fabian Allen and Mitchell Marsh will be breathing down his neck.

With stats inputs from Deepu Narayanan

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