IPL8: Last chance saloon

Play-off berth at stake in today’s must-win game between Sunrisers, Mumbai

Hyderabad: Ladies and gentlemen, last round coming up. It’s all or nothing. Sounds like an announcement at the MGM Grand’s boxing arena? Well, the situation could be similar at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium on Sunday when Sunrisers Hyderabad take on Mumbai Indians in the concluding game of the league stage of this season’s hotly contested IPL. Hyderabad may just not match the Las Vegas bling but the cricketing stars would be on the ground here, desperate to shine on a night they would remember for long. It’s a bout with different type of gloves on.

It’s a must-win for both as a spot in the play-offs is at stake. The nerves of both sides would surely be put through the shredder. On paper, it’s Mumbai who is doing well on that count for the moment. The Blues have punched way above their weight to pull off a miraculous win over Kolkata Knight Riders on Thursday while the Oranges got squashed by Royal Challengers Bangalore despite putting up a formidable total on Friday.

Having suffered such a frightful blow, SRH bowlers will need to drag themselves up into a proper frame of mind. Perhaps a change of venue may have helped as well. The hosts did well on the field for most part but were not quite up there when it came to fan support. With Kohli and Gayle opening the chase, one half of the stadium rooted for RCB. One wonders where the crowd loyalties lie come Sunday, with Sachin Tendulkar sitting in the MI dugout.

That’s surely added pressure on the home side. On the field though, SRH still have issues with getting the combination right — the fourth overseas player to be precise. It’s somewhat resembled a revolving door so far with Boult-Bopara-Steyn being the ones to walk in-out. The run-scoring responsibilities will once again rest on the shoulders of Orange Cap owner David Warner, his opening parter Shikhar Dhawan, Moises Henriques and Eoin Morgan but the bowling department needs to buck up.

Having begun the season on the backfoot, Mumbai have done very well to put themselves in this situation, and would want to step on the gas now. Captain Rohit Sharma has a fondness for this ground — it’s been his home in the initial seasons of IPL. Hyderabad’s A. T. Rayudu knows the RGICS too well as well. Those would be special attractions besides the biggies in Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Lendl Simmons and Harbhajan Singh. That’s quite a powerful bunch.To know which side will be punch drunk, it’s over to the last chance saloon.

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