KL Rahul vs Jos Buttler. Ravi Bishnoi vs Yuzvendra Chahal.
The two in-form teams Rajasthan Royals and Lucknow Super Giants clash against each other in a tantalising second game of the day at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. Royals faced a minor hiccup, going down to Royal Challengers Bangalore by four wickets after winning their first two matches comprehensively, and slipped to the fourth position in the points table. A win here against Super Giants, who are placed third with three wins from four matches, will lift Royals to the top.
However, that’s easier said than done. Super Giants boast of batting depth where three of their batters Quinton de Kock, Rahul and Deepak Hooda together have notched up 411 runs out of the 693 runs scored by the team and also feature in the top-10 run-getters this season. There is also the young Ayush Badoni, all of 22, who has produced stunning counter attacks, taking on the likes of Mohammed Shami and Lockie Ferguson. As far as captain Rahul is concerned, Wankhede has been a happy hunting ground in the IPL. The opener has scored 399 runs in eight innings – including two half-centuries and a hundred – at a strike rate of 146.
Royals are also a batting-heavy side, with the likes of Buttler, Sanju Samson and Shimron Hetmyer providing the fireworks. However, their weak link is the fifth bowling option which the Super Giants would be keen to exploit. The team has tried four different bowlers – including Nathan Coulter-Nile who sat out after getting injured in their opener- and all of them have leaked more than 10 runs an over. Navdeep Saini has been the expensive one, with an economy of 12 from six overs he has bowled so far.
Despite managing to defend scores of 193 and 210 when other teams have largely struggled to do so this time, Royals might just start to worry about R Ashwin’s form as well, especially after his 21-run over against Royal Challengers which proved to be the turning point for them losing the game. The offspinner has conceded 90 runs in 12 overs so far, accounting for only a wicket. That there are three left-handers in the Super Giants’ top six could help Ashwin, who has a great record against these batters across formats, find his feet sooner than later.
Royals’ Australian allrounder Coulter-Nile has returned home after suffering a side strain. West Indies’ left-arm pacer Obed McCoy, who had a memorable 2021, picking up 24 wickets in 14 T20s, could be the team’s fourth overseas player.
There is a chance that Super Giants might bring in Sri Lankan fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera for Australian Andrew Tye, who has gone for 9.72 runs an over in three matches so far.
Lucknow Super Giants : 1 KL Rahul (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Evin Lewis, 4 Deepak Hooda, 5 Krunal Pandya, 6 Ayush Badoni, 7 Krishnappa Gowtham, 8 Jason Holder, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Ravi Bishnoi, 11 Dushmantha Chameera/Andrew Tye
de Kock may be coming off two half-centuries in four matches, but the opener will be wary of the threat posed by the dangerous spin combination of Ashwin-Chahal. The in-form Chahal has dismissed de Kock five times in seven T20s, while Ashwin has removed him four times in nine innings.
Captain Rahul might be targeting Trent Boult, against whom he has enjoyed success, which is evident from his strike rate of 177 against the left-arm pacer. In the nine T20s, the New Zealander has dismissed Rahul only once.
Royals have hit ten sixes against spinners this IPL, the third-most by a team.