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Rabada’s return looms large as PBKS, RR look to build on winning starts

Last updated on 04 Apr 2023 | 01:41 PM
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Rabada’s return looms large as PBKS, RR look to build on winning starts

The IPL adds a brand new venue to its long list as Barsapara Cricket Stadium, Guwahati gets ready to host its first-ever game in the tournament

A perfect start is what all teams seek but just a few are lucky enough to achieve that. If you are Rajasthan Royals (RR) or Punjab Kings (PBKS), you would feel just that, but with plenty of matches still left, you cannot afford to bask in the glory for too long. The action shifts to the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, Guwahati, one of RR’s ‘home grounds,’ where the Royals will hope to build on their impressive win against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).

Meanwhile, PBKS could be boosted by Kagiso Rabada’s return. He has arrived in the country for the tournament but remember, the paceman didn’t feature in South Africa’s ODI victory over Netherlands at the Wanderers as a precaution due to a back niggle. Will he be slotted right into the XI?

There’s no clear indication that PBKS will field Liam Livingstone in this game as well. The England all-rounder missed the first game as he could not secure a clearance from ECB after he sustained a knee injury in December last year.

While their inclusion will be massive for Punjab, it will not be surprising if we have to wait for another game or two before they are available for selection.

Things to watch out for

Will the top three deliver again?

In IPL since 2019, both RR and PBKS’ top three batters have been dominant. They showed glimpses of it in the previous game where they were the primary reasons behind their sides posting a formidable total. PBKS top three combined scored at a strike-rate of 154.79, while their counterparts at RR struck at 179.12.

Having the likes of Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson and Yashasvi Jaiswal has certainly helped RR rack up impressive numbers.  Moreover, Punjab are also one of Buttler’s favourite opponent, having scored 416 runs at a strike-rate of 158 against them.

‘ThunderBoult’ in the powerplay

RR pacer Trent Boult has been difficult to put away especially in the powerplay. In IPL since 2020, he has not only picked up the most wickets (33) in the first six overs but 17 of those have come in the very first over. Moreover, he has taken two or more wickets in the powerplay on nine occasions in this period. He has started off IPL 2023 striking twice in his first over and negotiating his initial spell will be critical for PBKS.

The good news for PBKS is that Boult has a horrendous record against them, having picked up eight wickets at 42.6. The New Zealand pacer has just one wicket from his last five appearances against PBKS.

Trust Arshdeep to deliver

Arshdeep Singh has turned into a terrific wicket-taking option in the powerplay and also at the death. While he was not particularly effective in the first six overs – picking up just three wickets -  in the IPL last season, post that he honed his skills further and in T20s thereafter snapped up 21 wickets in 28 innings, striking once every 14.3 deliveries.

That also translated into his international form, in which he picked up 17 wickets at an economy rate of under eight in T20Is. His 16 wickets at the death since IPL 2020 have come at a strike-rate of 19.5 and economy rate of eight.

Ground details

The Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati can hold up to 40,000 spectators. The IPL 2023 seems to be an excellent tournament to put runs on the board and defend given that only two of the six matches so far have been won by the team chasing. That could very well be the case in Guwahati, where seven out of the 11 times the team batting first have gone on to win the game in T20s since 2019.

The average first innings T20 total at this venue since 2019 has been 153, while the average winning score batting first is 170.

Tactical nous

Dhawan’s Achilles heel

On paper, it might look like Ravichandran Ashwin could be an excellent match-up against Shikhar Dhawan, but in reality, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal could prove to be deadly against the southpaw. Dhawan has struggled against leg-spinners of late. In IPL since 2021, Dhawan has fallen to them on seven occasions at an average of 18.9 and scoring at 115.8.

While Ashwin has a terrific record against Dhawan (4 dismissals, SR 87.6), Dhawan’s recent struggles against leg-spin suggests Chahal could have a bigger shout against the veteran. For the record, Dhawan has fallen to Chahal on three occasions in the IPL, striking at 114.

Jaiswal hit or miss

While Yashaswi Jaiswal has been at his absolute best in the powerplay in the last couple of seasons, his huge weakness against left-arm pacers cannot be brushed under the carpet. Especially when the opposition has two quality left-arm quicks in Arshdeep Singh and Sam Curran.

Among batters who have scored at least 200 runs in the first six overs in the IPL since 2021, Jaiswal’s strike-rate of 147 and his balls per boundary ratio of 3.9 are the third best. However, the left-arm pacers have dismissed him six times in the IPL, four of which have come inside the powerplay.

Buttler to negate Rabada threat?

The battle between Buttler and Kagiso Rabada will be an interesting one, provided the Proteas pacer plays. Buttler has not just been terrific against Rabada but also against Punjab Kings. Rabada has dismissed Buttler just once in the IPL with the England batter striking at 188 against him. Buttler’s strike-rate of 171 in T20s vs Rabada is also the second best after Suryakumar Yadav (181) among batters who have faced 50 deliveries.

Team combination

Unless Livingstone is cleared to play and Rabada is fit, there will be no changes in the PBKS XI.

PBKS probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan (c), Prabhsimran Singh (wk), Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Jitesh Sharma, Shahrukh Khan, Sam Curran, Sikandar Raza, Nathan Ellis, Harpreet Brar, Rahul Chahar, Arshdeep Singh.

RR have a perfect mix when it comes to their overseas players with Buttler, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder and Boult occupying the spots. Even though KM Asif did little wrong in the first game, RR can replace him with the more experienced Sandeep Sharma.

RR probable XI: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Jos Buttler, Devdutt Padikkal, Sanju Samson (c & wk), Riyan Parag, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Ravichandran Ashwin, Trent Boult, KM Asif, Yuzvendra Chahal.

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