In the third match of the ongoing Indian Premier League season in the UAE, Royal Challengers Bangalore will take on Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Dubai International Stadium on Monday. RCB, as many claim, including captain Virat Kohli, look the "most balanced squad" since 2016. But there is nothing new to this claim. RCB have always managed to hog the limelight in terms of their squad, looking the strongest on paper ahead of the season. Yet, they finished seventh and twice with the wooden spoon in the last three seasons. Sunrisers tend to create less of a chatter despite having a few big T20 stars. Both will want to get off to a flier on Saturday. While RCB are yet to win their first major title, SRH will be seeking their second.
Head-to-head tie: The two teams faced each other 15 times in IPL and Sunrisers stand narrowly ahead with eight wins while Bangalore have managed six.
Away from home and at neutral venues: In their head-to-head tie, both teams have dominated at their respective home grounds. While RCB won five of their eight matches at Chinnaswamy and lost two others, SRH incurred only one defeat in their seven meetings in Hyderabad. They have never faced each other at any neutral venues.
Overall, RCB have won 42.35 per cent of their T20 meetings away from home while Sunrisers have only a tad better record with 44.44 win percentage.
Meanwhile, RCB had finished third in the league stage in IPL 2009 which was staged in South Africa. Winning eight of their 14 matches, RCB had qualified for the semis and had even reached the final defeating Delhi Daredevils. SRH did not play in IPL 2009, but both were part of the 2014 edition of the tournament where the first 20 matches were played in the UAE. Both teams recorded two wins and three losses in their allotted five league games.
- David Warner and Jonny Bairstow will be the two key batsmen for SRH this tournament. In the last edition, they two had added 791 runs in 10 innings which included a hat-trick of century stands. Moreover, Warner's consistency has been the biggest asset for SRH having scored 500-plus runs in each of his last six IPL seasons. The English opener plundered 445 runs in 10 matches
- SRH's major concern will be their middle order that averaged barely 21, the second-lowest last season. SRH will once again rely on Manish Pandey who has been the fulcrum for team after top-order collapse but the Indian has a negative batting impact. SRH can look at Abdul Samad who scored more number of sixes in 2019/20 Ranji season despite playing two matches fewer than possible and has a strike rate of over 100.
- Poor bowling returns from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan will also be a major concern heading into the opener. The Indian pacer averaged 39.33 and 35.66 in his last two seasons while picking nine and 13 wickets respectively. And about Rashid, according to CricViz, his average T20 bowling impact has fallen over the last two years. However, his economy rate of 5.6 in the UAE is the second-best since his debut.
- Virat Kohli has his best combination of average and strike rate - 45.82 and 142.87 - against Sunrisers Hyderabad., scoring 504 runs against the franchise in 14 matches. But since 2018, his average dropped to 17.5 against SRH at a strike rate of 121. Rashid Khan proves to be a good antidote who had dismissed him once in 2018 in 14 balls for 12 runs. But the spinner was more effective against AB de Villiers in that year, dismissing him twice in 19 balls for 20 runs.
- But the true bowling rival for Kohli will be Sandeep Sharma, who has dismissed him six times in IPL - the joint-most alongside Ashish Nehra - in 42 deliveries at 62 runs.
- Kohli needs 20 runs more to surpass Shane Watson (523 runs) and become the leading run-getter against SRH in IPL history. Meanwhile, AB de Villiers need three more sixes to become the sixth player with 400 sixes in T20 cricket