Unlike other rivalries, there isn’t a lot of history between these two teams. It is only the second year of their participation in the Indian Premier League yet their overachieving status has made people term this as a big fixture.
There is another fascinating fact that brings both teams together - the fact of 'strike rate being overrated', after Shubman Gill echoed KL Rahul’s thoughts. If the loss against Chennai Super Kings showed Lucknow’s vulnerability while chasing, their loss against Punjab Kings showed their worries with the ball.
But at either end of the Punjab loss, Lucknow have put on one heck of a show to really show the other teams what their true worth is, at the top half of the table. Up against them are Gujarat, a team that have already showed their win in the 2022 IPL wasn’t purely luck.
But since that statement was delivered earlier in the season, they have lost two crucial games - one against Kolkata Knight Riders and the other against Rajasthan Royals. The jury is still waiting out there for a verdict, can Gujarat pass the Lucknow test?
Things to watch out for
Gujarat’s new-ball attack vs Lucknow openers
Even in their loss the other night against Rajasthan Royals, the Gujarat Titans put on a show early on with the ball. In fact, they blew the opposition to smithereens with Mohammed Shami making the ball glide past the batters. In each of their five clashes this year, Gujarat have constantly accounted for two wickets per game in the powerplay.
In their previous clash, Gujarat reduced a high-flying Royals to 26/2, which also happens to be the Royals’ lowest-scoring powerplay. Lucknow’s openers have the fourth-best average for the opening wicket in this year’s IPL.
But there is a big question mark over their run-rate in the powerplay (8 RPO). With Shami leading the bowling charts in the powerplay, it would be a fascinating battle between the two.
‘Overrated’ strike-rates could come under the scanner
Fascinatingly enough, both sides have an opener who is a basher, and the other who remains coy over criticism around his strike rate. Lucknow have Rahul, a perennial offender in the powerplay, Gujarat have Gill, who has looked far from convincing this season. In the powerplay phase during IPL 2023, Rahul strikes at 109 and is only better than two other openers - Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Narayan Jagadeesan.
With Rahul, there is an evident pattern visible, with his strike rate of 101 during his first ten balls only improving marginally to 108 in the next ten. However, there is a shift in the pattern during the 21-30 ball phase, where he strikes at 140.
But from thereon, it yet again goes down to 127. In all their three games prior to this, his knocks came under the scanner, and he often got away with it. Will he get away again?
Hardik Pandya’s stuttering form with the bat
Last year, a major reason for Gujarat’s success was their skipper, Hardik Pandya. In 15 clashes last season, the right-hander scored 487 runs, at a staggering average of 44.27 with a strike rate of 131.3. Most of his success came during the middle-overs, where he scored 317 runs with an average of 39.63, and only got dismissed once in 29 deliveries.
This year, though, Hardik has looked like a shadow of himself, with an average of just 12.25 and a below-average strike rate of 108.89. While he came out swinging in the clash against Rajasthan, his overall form with the bat has been rather scrappy. There are two kinds of bowling types that have made Hardik struggle in the last two years - leg-spin and orthodox.
Unfortunately for GT, Lucknow possess both bowling types, which will make Hardik’s life a big worry.
Barring the very first innings at this venue in the ongoing IPL season, where Lucknow hammered 193 against Delhi, Lucknow’s home venue has been a low-scoring ground. The subsequent scores have been 143/9, 121/8, 127/5, 159/8 and 161/8.
The average run rate at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium has been 7.8, the lowest for any venue with more than one game in IPL 2023. Historically as well, this is a low-scoring venue. In all T20s since 2022, teams have scored 135 runs on average in the first innings.
Coming back to this IPL season, the spinners have snapped 41.96.2% of the wickets here which is a high proportion. Hence, Lucknow is one of the few venues where spinners should be the main priority.
Krunal’s impact might be amplified
Krunal Pandya is likely to play a bigger impact in this clash against Gujarat, especially with how the pitch has tended to behave in Lucknow. Not just that, there is an evident match-up waiting for him, against both Wriddhiman Saha and his brother, Hardik. Saha has an evident weakness against left-arm spinners, with a strike rate of 111.1, the second-lowest for him against a bowling type since IPL 2021. Hardik too has been dismissed five times against left-arm spinners during the same period.
Gujarat could consider playing Noor Ahmad
Last fixture, Gujarat surprised Rajasthan with the inclusion of Noor Ahmad in the XI as an impact player. On a surface that could potentially aid spinners yet again, Gujarat would be tempted to include the left-arm leg-spinner in the playing XI. There’s more than one reason for that.
Both KL Rahul and Deepak Hooda have been dismissed by left-arm leg-spinners since 2022, and all three of Marcus Stoinis, Krunal Pandya and Nicholas Pooran have a below-par strike rate against the bowling type. 48% of the wickets taken by the spinners in Lucknow have been on a good length (4-6m), which is the bread and butter for Noor.
In fact, 37.5 of the 59.3 overs that the left-arm spinner has bowled have been in those lengths. So, picking him would be wise.
Given it is in Lucknow, Gujarat could play as many as three spinners, including Jayant Yadav and Noor Ahmad pairing with Rashid Khan
Gujarat batting first XI: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shubman Gill, Sai Sudharsan, Hardik Pandya (Captain), Vijay Shankar/Abhinav Manohar, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, Jayant Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph
Gujarat bowling first XI: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shubman Gill, Sai Sudharsan, Hardik Pandya (Captain), David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Jayant Yadav, Noor Ahmad
Lucknow would be desperate to welcome Mark Wood back in the setup but in case that doesn’t pan out, Naveen-ul-Haq is likely to retain his place.
Lucknow batting first XI: KL Rahul (c), Kyle Mayers, Deepak Hooda, Marcus Stoinis, Krunal Pandya, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Ayush Badoni, Avesh Khan, Yudhvir Singh Charak, Mark Wood, Ravi Bishnoi
Lucknow bowling first XI: KL Rahul (c), Kyle Mayers, Deepak Hooda, Marcus Stoinis, Krunal Pandya, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Avesh Khan, Amit Mishra, Yudhvir Singh Charak, Mark Wood, Ravi Bishnoi