A drab opening to the Indian Premier League 2019 at the MA Chidambaram stadium on March 23 saw a formidable Royal Challengers Bangalore batting line-up bamboozled by Chennai Super Kings spinners. On an absolute minefield of a track, RCB were shot out for 70 with veterans Imran Tahir and Harbhajan Singh turning the ball square, leaving the Bengaluru side in a tizzy.
The square at Chepauk has three pitches and all will be expected to play the same with the due factor kicking in later in the evening. Surprisingly, pacers have a better track record in terms of strike rates at this venue having featured a lot more than spinners, a stat that is certain to change this season.
CSK, who have won their opening two fixtures, play host to Rajasthan Royals – beaten narrowly by Kings XI and Sunrisers Hyderabad, and while the Chennai side boast wily spinners, Rajasthan aren’t far behind with the likes of Krishnappa Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal. The Royals also have the unheralded Kerala leg-break bowler Sudhesan Midhun on the bench and would be tempted to give him an outing at the expense of a pacer.
Steve Smith has had just one outing for the Royals this season (20 off 16 against King XI Punjab) and his prowess against the turning ball will be something the Royals will bank on. In addition, Jos Buttler goes at a reasonable click against turn so it will be interesting to see how Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson complement them at the top.
It is the middle overs that could prove vital as, barring Smith, the remainder aren’t prolific in the middle overs especially in terms of their dismissal rate.
Buttler vs Tahir: In the IPL, Buttler has struggled against leg break bowlers with a dismissal rate of 13.1 after falling prey to another leggie Rashid Khan on Friday. On a turning wicket, Buttler might not be as explosive.
Chennai Super Kings: Ambati Rayudu, Shane Watson, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh, Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir.
Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane, Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson, Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Rahul Tripathi, Krishnappa Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni/Sudhesan Midhun.