Hyderabad will be keen to put their defeat to Mumbai in their last Indian T20 League outing behind them when they face Punjab at Dubai on Thursday. David Warner’s men find themselves outside the top four, having accumulated four points after winning two out of their five matches this season.

Punjab, on the other hand, have endured a more disappointing start to the season than Hyderabad after winning just one of their five games. Currently at the bottom of the Indian T20 League standings with just two points, Punjab must start delivering soon if they want to make it to the top four and qualify for the business end of the tournament.

The head-to-head between these two teams over the years suggests that Hyderabad are likely to come out on top in this fixture. Hyderabad have claimed 10 wins, while Punjab have emerged triumphant on just four occasions during the 14 encounters between the two teams. Here, we preview some key battles and impact players who could help their team to victory.

Punjab’s bowlers need to come good

Despite beginning the tournament well against Delhi and Bangalore’s formidable batting line-up, Punjab’s bowlers have struggled to be at their best in their last three matches. Their previous match against Chennai, in fact, saw them succumb to a 10-wicket loss while defending a total of 178. Punjab’s bowlers managed to take 16 wickets at an average of 16.44 in their first two games before managing just nine scalps at an average of 66.11 in the subsequent three.

If they want to get the better of Hyderabad, it’s imperative that their bowlers begin to pull their weight. Only Mohammed Shami (4) and Sheldon Cottrell (2) have managed to take more than one wicket this season and that needs to change soon if they want to turn things around. Their spinners have collectively accounted for just two wickets so far and all-rounder Jimmy Neesham has been on the expensive side without making too many inroads into the opposition batting line-up.

Hyderabad’s death over batting woes

Hyderabad’s batting in the death overs should be a major area of concern for them. Often accused of being a bit top-heavy and with good reason, Hyderabad have lost 13 wickets – the most by any team – and are averaging 12.08 – the least by a team – in the death overs this season. Their strike rate of 130.83 is also the lowest by any team in the death overs this year, making them the only team with a strike rate of less than 160 in the final overs of the innings.

The likes of Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Manish Pandey and Kane Williamson can all accelerate when required, but the fact that they haven’t been at the crease for the team at the death has hurt them. That said, they have a chance to improve that record when they go up against Punjab on Thursday. Hyderabad can take confidence from the fact that Punjab have an economy of 15.88 in the death overs – the worst by any in 2020. Punjab have conceded at an economy of more than 15 in four out of their five matches so far.

Players to watch:

Hyderabad – Rashid Khan

Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan has had a good tournament so far and Hyderabad will be hoping that he can continue in a similar vein of form against Punjab as well as for the rest of the Indian T20 League. He has taken five wickets at an impressive economy of 5.20, an average of 20.8 and bowled 42 dot balls. Capable of contributing with the bat as well, he is 52 runs short of 1000 in T20s and has a strike rate of 145.17.

Punjab – KL Rahul

The top-scorer in the 2020 Indian T20 League with 302 runs at an average of 75.50, KL Rahul has been in cracking form this season. He has faced more than 50 balls in three out of his five innings so far and has a fine record against Hyderabad, averaging 52.40 against them. Since the 2018 Indian T20 League, Rahul has scored 200 runs against Hyderabad at an average of 66.67 and dominated their bowlers with the exception of Rashid.

Stats to watch out for:

1: Mohammed Shami is just wicket away from collecting 100 scalps in T20s. He's also just two away from 50 wickets in the Indian T20 League.

10: Hyderabad's Manish Pandey is just 10 runs away from completing 3,000 runs in the Indian T20 League. He could become the 16th batsman and the 12th Indian to reach the landmark.

11: Hyderabad's Rashid Khan loves bowling against Punjab as he has picked up 11 wickets against them, the most he's managed against a side in the league.

819: Hyderabad skipper David Warner also has a terrific record against Punjab. The Australian has scored 819 runs against them, the most by any batsman against Punjab.

Writer’s pick:

Punjab are due a win and could well get that at the expense of Hyderabad in Dubai. If their batsmen get going and their bowlers come to the party, there’s no reason why they can’t get the better of Hyderabad, especially considering that the opposition aren’t the best when it comes to accelerating with their batting at the death this season.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Noah Seelam