Head to head record:
Rajasthan Royals: 4
After losing their opening games in freak fashion, the Sunrisers Hyderdabad and Rajasthan Royals (book your tickets for the Royals games here) face off in Hyderabad on Friday night, where the home team has won 15 off their last 21 games. Both of them reached the playoffs in IPL 2018, thanks to some star turns by their openers Kane Williamson and Jos Buttler. But this contest in 2019 will be billed as the clash between ex-Australian captain and vice captain, Steve Smith and David Warner, exactly one year after they received an international ban for the Newlands fiasco. The two Aussie stars are back, stronger and more determined, hoping to prove their worth in the IPL before Australia choose their ODI squad for the upcoming World Cup.
Captain: Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Kane Williamson
IPL Titles: 1
With regular captain Williamson injured for the first game against the Kolkata Knight Riders, Bhuvneshwar Kumar took charge of the Sunrisers, despite the return of ex-captain David Warner. This team is not short on leaders. All was going well for the best all-round team in the Indian Premier League, until Andre Russell launched into a blitzkrieg (a 19-ball 49) to hand SRH a defeat against the run of play. On the bright side, David Warner returned with an 85 as if he was never away for the one-year ban, looking fluent and still the kingpin of the SRH batting line-up. Though Johnny Bairstow opened with Warner against KKR, SRH will want Williamson back for this game, given that he topped the run-scoring charts in IPL 2018 after a phenomenal season in which he proved all his T20 naysayers wrong. SRH have a modest middle order, and will hope that Manish Pandey hits form in order to partner the likes of Vijay Shankar and T20 veteran Yusuf Pathan. They will also hope that Bhuvi hits his length in the death overs, while Rashid Khan becomes the feared wicket-taker he was in the last two seasons. SRH continue to be the best bowling team in IPL cricket. It was only the third time since 2016 where they failed to defend a 180+ total against KKR the other night.
Warner, Williamson, Vijay Shankar, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Deepak Hooda, Shakib, Rashid Khan, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul
Captain: Ajinkya Rahane
IPL titles: 1
Royals were undone by a collapse and a controversy in the first game against KXIP, but their performance only confirmed that Jos Buttler is still their MVP, and they have the potential to reach the playoffs once again this season. The bowling line-up is almost entirely local, while the batting depends on international stars and a talented Indian hopeful. Steve Smith is back, but one senses that Rahul Tripathi, who was a big hit for the Rising Pune Supergiant team, needs to bat higher up the order if he is to be effective. Sanju Samson at 3 is one of the most aesthetically pleasing sights in IPL, and has been for years, but he needs to step it up a notch on the consistency charts if he wants to make a Team India case in the future. He remains one of the most talented cricketers in the country – IPL 2019 is crucial for him. Ben Stokes will want to recapture the form that made him Man of the Series in his IPL debut in 2017 for Pune. He had a miserable 2018, but is too world-class to let one bad season change his worth. Gowtham won them a few games on his bat last season, too.
Buttler, Rahane, Samson, Smith, Tripathi, Stokes, Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Ish Sodhi, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni
SRH to win on a canter, with Rashid Khan finally coming to the party.