Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals are the last two teams to play their first matches in this season's Indian Premier League. Both sides had a good season in 2013, finishing fourth and third respectively.
Venue: Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Date: Friday, 18 April
Start time: 2:30 p.m. BST/6:30 p.m. local time
Live on: Sony Six, Star Sports HD, Star Sports 1 (India), ITV4 (United Kingdom), SuperSport (South Africa), OSN (UAE) SkyTV (New Zealand), Network Ten (Australia), Channel 9 (Bangladesh), Sportsnet and Omni (Canada), Sports Max (West Indies), Geo Super (Pakistan), Starhub (Singapore).
Weather: AccuWeather predicts temperatures of up to 37 degrees Celsius during the day, which should dip to around 25 by the time the match kicks off.
The Sunrisers have been the dark horses of the IPL since winning the second edition of the tournament as the Deccan Chargers. They surprised a few when they made the play-offs last year, but this year, they have a good team and can probably be expected to make it that far.
Rajasthan, meanwhile, have one of the weaker squads in the tournament.
Sunrisers have a powerhouse top order in the form of Australian duo Aaron Finch and David Warner while Shikhar Dhawan can also pack a punch. Add to that the feisty Dale Steyn, superstar finisher Darren Sammy and spinning sensation Amit Mishra and you have a team that look like they mean business.
Don't tell Rajasthan's Shane Watson his team is lacking by comparison, though. The Aussie all-rounder reckons Rajasthan have assembled their strongest side ever.
He was quoted by the Press Trust of India (via NDTV) as saying:
I've got no prediction, apart from (that) we're certainly going to be extremely competitive. We've got, in my thoughts, the strongest squad we've ever had for the Rajasthan Royals.We've got really hard quality options and back-up for every position in our team which we haven't exactly had every year in the past.
Those are bold words by the Aussie, and the Royals could have been given a tougher test to prove that they are indeed able to compete. Conditions in the UAE will suit batsmen best so it will be up to Watson and his fellow Aussie Steve Smith to take advantage of them.
However, both Steyn and Mishra can perform no matter what the conditions, and after Steyn's feverish World Twenty20, there's no doubt he'll be fired up and ready to go, even if he's skating around the UAE.
The Sunrisers seem fairly confident, or at least their Twitter account does, judging by the tweet below:
Rajasthan still have Rahul Dravid in their midst, serving as mentor and, by the looks of things, also doubling up as a strategist for team selection:
Sunrisers are favourites by a country mile. As long as their confidence doesn't become arrogance, they should win their opening game fairly easily.
Finch has the potential to be one of the most destructive players in the world. He is more orthodox than Warner, and his average—both overall in T20s and in T20—is higher than Warner's. Finch averages 37.96 in T20s overall and 41.25 in T20, which compares to Warner's 31.25 and 28.38, respectively. If Finch fires, Sunrisers will be set.
Smith wasn't part of Australia's World T20 squad, and he hasn't played an international T20 since 2011, but he is one of the most improved cricketers of the last 12 months. Domestically, his figures are more than handy.
During last season's Big Bash, he played four matches and totalled 164 runs, including two fifties. He is most improved as a batsman and hardly bowls these days, but he can turn his arm over, if needs must.
Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Amit Mishra, Irfan Pathan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Naman Ojha, Karan Sharma, Parvez Rasool, KL Rahul, Venugopal Rao, S Anirudha, Manpreet Juneja, Ricky Bhui, Amit Paunikar, P Parameswaran, Ashish Reddy, Chama Milind, Dale Steyn, Darren Sammy, David Warner, Aaron Finch, Moises Henriques, Jason Holder, Brendan Taylor
Brad Hodge, Unmukt Chand, Karun Nair, Ajinkya Rahane, Steven Smith, Rajat Bhatia, Abhishek Nayar, Ben Cutting, Kevon Cooper, Shane Watson (captain), Stuart Binny, James Faulkner, Dishant Yagnik, Ankush Bains, Sanju Samson, Iqbal Abdulla, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tewatia, Ankit Sharma, Pravin Tambe, Tim Southee, Dhawal Kulkarni, Kane Richardson, Vikramjeet Malik, Amit Mishra
Full preview of the Sunrisers squad, breakdown of their auction business and more here.
Full preview of the Rajasthan squad, breakdown of their auction business and more here.
All statistics via ESPNCricinfo.
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