Battle of pace aces: It’s Ferguson vs Umran as Titans face stern Sunrisers test

Mumbai: The speed gun radar will be functioning overtime when Lockie Ferguson’s 150 click thunderbolts meet its match in rising pace sensation Umran Malik’s toe-crushers as table toppers Gujarat Titans clash with close-on-heels Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL here on Wednesday.
The IPL newcomers are currently in the midst of a dream inception year with six wins from seven games at the halfway stage and are placed on top of the table.
Interestingly, the only loss that Titans suffered in its campaign so far was against Sunrisers in an earlier meeting and Hardik Pandya wouldn’t mind a sweet revenge for that defeat.
However, the ‘Orange Army’s’ bowling attack especially their four-prong fast bowling unit has been exceptional as one saw when they demolished RCB for 68 in its previous encounter.
The disconcerting bounce and movement created by Marco Jansen (6 wickets from 5 games) is ably complemented by Umran’s (10 wickets from 7 games) fiery pace, T Natarajan’s (15 from 7 games) deceptions off the track and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (9 from 7 games) balancing it all with his experience.
So much so that a lightweight spin department manned by left-arm spinner Jagadeesha Suchith in absence of an injured Washington Sundar, till now hasn’t been a cause of worry for Kane Williamson and his band of men.
In fact, the rub of the green has gone SRH’s way in this particular season as they now have five consecutive wins from five games where they have chased targets after the bowlers intimidated the rival batting unit.
For Pandya though, his bowling unit is no inferior to SRH as Mohammed Shami’s artistry (10 from 7 games) and Ferguson’s (9 wickets from 7 games) aggression has brought them a lot of success, not to forget Rashid Khan’s (8 wickets from 7 games) ability to be more than decent even in a quiet year by his standards.
However, one area where Titans need to lift their game is Powerplay batting as Shubman Gill (207 from 7 games) has gone off the boil after the his 96 and Wriddhiman Saha, replacing Matthew Wade, has been downright mediocre.
In fact, Saha’s propensity to waste balls upfront (dismal SR of 83 in 2 games) in both the matches that he played so far has forced skipper Pandya (295 from 6 games) and David Miller (220 from 7 games) to up the ante even before they can take some time to play themselves in.
The chink in Titans armoury is not having a quality keeper-batter for the format as Wade hasn’t really had a great time in the first five games that he got and Saha has always been a player who takes time to settle down before he could play some shots.
There is Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz in the set-up but in order to play him, Titans would have to sacrifice a potent pace bowling option like West Indies pacer Alzarri Joseph, which won’t be the most wise thing to do.
Abhinav Manohar and Rahul Tewatia would also like to be more consistent in the finishers’ role rather than being like a flash in the pan for a match or two.
However, Titans’ bowling attack has the ability to catch the SRH batting unit off-guard considering that it hasn’t been tested a lot with young Abhishek Sharma (220 in 7 games) and No.3 batter Rahul Tripathi (212 from 7 games) doing bulk of the scoring in easy chases.
If Titans could breach through the Sunrisers top-order, most of the middle-order batters including the dangerous Nicholas Pooran haven’t yet got a decent hit in the middle and the rustiness under pressure could keep Titans interested.
If they manage to upset SRH’s rhythm, it will take them closer to play-offs in its maiden year in the championship, no mean achievement in a competition of this class.

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