Pune: What looked to be the two weakest IPL teams after their standings in the last season - bottom and second from bottom - Pune Warriors and Sunrisers Hyderabad clash at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in game one of Tuesday's double-header seeking to outdo the each other. Pune are coming off an upset win over two-time IPL winners Chennai Super Kings while Hyderabad's last match was a huge defeat to current champions Kolkata Knight Riders.
Pune's win on Sunday owed to two clutch innings from two of their Australian imports, opener Aaron Finch and allrounder Steven Smith. Finch collected his second half-century in three matches to help drive Pune's best opening stand across three seasons while Smith, in his first appearance in IPL 6, larruped an unbeaten 39 off 16 balls and then held three outfield catches. For a side lacking firepower, getting more out of Finch and Smith is imperative. Thus, batting Smith higher up the order is the way forward. Finch has a golden duck sandwiched between match-winning scores of 64 and 67 so Pune will hope that the trend does not continue.
Back at home, Pune will be led by Angelo Mathews who could not play in Chennai due to the ban on Sri Lankans in the state of Tamil Nadu. So the tough question is: who sits out? Finch and Ross Taylor are first-choice picks despite the latter struggling with the bat, while Smith's Man-of-the-Match performance means he cannot be ignored. In fact, many have wondered why he was not in the side earlier. That leaves another Australian, the allrounder Mitchell Marsh, who collected two wickets against CSK and who's fielding and ability to hit a long ball make him a valuable asset. It looks as if Marsh will be the man to make way for Mathews.
The two poorest teams from last season go up against each other on Tuesday in Pune, with the hosts searching for a turnaround in fortunes after their upset win in Chennai.
The other expected change is the return of Yuvraj Singh who missed the Chennai match due to a sore back. Should be play, Manish Pandey would be the batsman to drop out of the XI.
Hyderabad, after two wins in a row, are now at fourth on the IPL 6 table after losing two in three. As was the case when they were known as Deccan Chargers last season, the batting is still a concern. They have only once crossed 150 so far, and two of their chases have been shaky. They scrapped home to a low-scoring win over Delhi Daredevils by three wickets with four balls remaining and before that choked in a chase of 131 and had to go into a Super Over. Cameron White won that for them, but overall he has struggled to force the pace consistently.
With Shikhar Dhawan still not fully fit, the onus is on White and skipper Kumar Sangakkara to build the innings. However, Sangakkara has been a royal flop in IPL 6 tallying 84 runs in five innings. With Parthiv Patel struggling to turn starts into decent scores and Hyderabad's Indian contingent all failing to turn up, it has left too much for Sri Lankan allrounder Thisara Perera to do down the order. Beating Pune on a good batting deck on Tuesday means Hyderabad must put runs on the board, be it setting a target or chasing.
Dale Steyn and Amit Mishra, the two bowling spearheads, will need to bounce back after poor a poor last match. Ishant Sharma could also do with some wickets.
Pune Warriors: 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Robin Uthappa (wk), 3 Ross Taylor, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Yuvraj Singh/Manish Pandey, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 T Suman, 8 Abhishek Nayar, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Rahul Sharma, 11 Ashok Dinda
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 Parthiv Patel (wk), 2 Cameron White, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 4 Dwarka Ravi Teja, 5 Thisara Perera, 6 Hanuma Vihari, 7 Ashish Reddy, 8 Karan Sharma, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Ishant Sharma