In what has been a rather surprising period of IPL action, the teams in the bottom half of the IPL 2020 points table have picked up important wins recently to spice up the race for a spot in the last four.
What that's done, in turn, is that the top three teams are stuck on 14 points, still one win away from a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. One among the top three are the Delhi Capitals (DC), the early title contenders who now seem to be playing with fire.
Shreyas Iyer's men have come second in their last two games and suddenly, they find themselves in a whole world of trouble. Their opponents for today, the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), will be coming into this encounter after a rather shocking 12-run loss to the Kings XI Punjab in which the batting unit failed to chase down 30 runs off the last five overs.
While this game will be the final roll of the dice for SRH, it will give DC an opportunity to gather some momentum before they square off against the other two teams in the top three positions - the Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore - in their final two league stage encounters.
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IPL 2020: SRH v DC Match Prediction
The last time these two sides met earlier this season, timely wickets from Rashid Khan dented DC's 163-run chase, and the Afghanistan star's threat will loom large over the Capitals' batting unit yet again today.
However, SRH themselves have a whole lot of issues to sort out on the batting front. David Warner and Jonny Bairstow have produced only flashes of brilliance, while Manish Pandey's laborious 29-ball 15 against KXIP in their last game will be a major concern.
The SRH openers find themselves in the top 10 list for most runs this season, but the inconsistency in wielding the willow and the inability to switch into fifth gear has hurt their cause.
As for the Capitals' batting, Shikhar Dhawan's twin half-centuries followed by two centuries camouflaged an otherwise sorry show from the rest of the batsmen in their last few encounters.
What's more is that DC preferred experience over youth by bringing in Ajinkya Rahane at the expense of Prithvi Shaw against KKR, but the move backfired. While Shaw hasn't been able to buy a run of late - 11 runs from his last four outings - DC would hope for either him or Rahane to get them off to a strong start.
All eyes, though, will be on southpaw Rishabh Pant, who will undoubtedly be hurting after being excluded from India's T20I and ODI squads for the tour of Australia once IPL culminates in the second week of November.
Pant has been uncharacteristically slow and watchful in IPL 2020. He is striking the ball at just 117.29 this season, which is his second worst strike rate since his debut season back in 2016 (130.26).
The young wicketkeeper-batsman will want to silence his critics and the occasion could not be any bigger, with the Capitals needing to arrest the losing streak and pick up an important win.
While Pant will need to ward off the Rashid threat on the Dubai surface that has aided spin bowling, the conditions could well work in favour of the Capitals, who have two of the best spinners this season in their ranks.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel have used their variations to telling effect this season, and they will look to exploit the inconsistencies in the SRH unit today.
Prediction: DC to win today.
Published 27 Oct 2020, 11:11 IST