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Royals aim to erase finale scars against confident Titans

article_imageTACTICAL PREVIEW
Last updated on 15 Apr 2023 | 10:34 AM
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Royals aim to erase finale scars against confident Titans

The Sanju Samson-led outfit will aim to go a step further after falling agonisingly short in the summit clash last season in Ahmedabad

We are in the second week of the Indian Premier League, and boy the matches in the last couple of days have well and truly lifted the excitement among fans for this extravaganza a notch higher. 

The week gone by produced some last-ball thrillers and some mind-boggling performances that have enthralled the fans, and it is only about to get better. 

Fasten your seatbelts 'cause we are in for a Sunday evening blockbuster as the two finalists from the last edition, Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals lock horns on a sultry evening at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. 

Barring a minor blip in the league game against the Kolkata Knight Riders, the defending champions have been dominant in the four matches played thus far and will be aiming to continue the momentum and edge closer to qualifying for the playoffs. 

On the other hand, the Royals will be riding high on confidence after breaching the Chepauk fortress by three runs and will look to consolidate their spot on the top of the points table. 

With plenty of firepower in both outfits, there will not be any shortage of entertainment and here are some of the critical factors that could decide the outcome of the game. 

Things to watch out for

Eyes on Shubman Gill

One of the most consistent batters in the last 12 months, Shubman Gill has been at the forefront of the Titans' success in this edition of the competition. 

The right-handed batter is the leading run-scorer for the side, with 183 runs in four innings at an average of 45.75 and a strike rate of 141.9. However, one of the areas of concern for the team would be his strike rate once the field restrictions are lifted. 

The 23-year-old has been guilty of slowing down once he is near his personal milestone, and it has been evident in how his innings builder by runs has been in the four matches. 

The opening batter has scored 49 off 39 deliveries at a strike rate of 125.64 once he has crossed the 30-run mark but manages to make up for the sluggish show with some lusty blows once he breaches his half-century. 

While this has not hampered the Titans yet, it will be interesting to see if Gill changes his approach in the middle overs and takes the attack to the high-quality spinners in the opposition ranks. 

Will Trent Boult feature for the Royals?

Sanju Samson mentioned at the toss ahead of their clash against the Chennai Super Kings that Trent Boult will not feature in the playing XI due to a niggle. 

The Royals did not feel the pinch of the speedster missing out on a spin-friendly track in Chennai but would be hoping for the Kiwi bowler to recover and slot his way back into the side. 

The 33-year-old is second on the list of leading wicket-takers in the powerplay with 19 wickets since IPL 2021 and with the formidable batting unit of the Titans, Samson will be hoping for some Thunder-Boults in the first six overs. 

Can Jaiswal overcome Little-threat?

Rajasthan Royals have one of the most destructive opening combinations in the tournament, with Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal in top-notch form. 

Well, ask Sunrisers Hyderabad about this, as the duo slammed 85 runs in the powerplay, the most in the history of the franchise inside the field restrictions. 

While the England batter is known to be one of the most incredible batters in the shortest format, his partner is a young 21-year-old coming into his own and creating ripples in domestic cricket. 

The southpaw has scored two half-centuries in four matches and will look to make the most of the batting-friendly conditions on offer in Ahmedabad to help the team get off to a flying start. 

However, he will be up against Joshua Little and his left-arm pace that could well and truly trouble him early in his innings. In 22 innings against the left-arm seamers, Jaiswal has been dismissed on eight occasions and has an average of 19.3, the second-worst for him against a bowling type. 

With Little set to open the bowling alongside Mohammed Shami, it will be interesting to see the tactics deployed by the youngster in this clash. 

Pitch & conditions

Ever since the stadium has been revamped, the wickets have been conducive for strokeplay, with the average first-innings score in T20s since 2021 around the 170-run mark and the average winning total around the 190-run mark. 

The two matches played thus far have been a high-scoring affair, with the Knight Riders chasing 205 runs on the last ball of the innings against the Titans. 

Overall, the pacers have been more effective in Ahmedabad and have scalped 155 out of the 229 wickets, which is approximately 68% of the dismissals. 

And precisely for this, the Royals would hope for Boult to return to optimum fitness and rattle the reigning champions. 

Tactical nous

Buttler's Achilles heel

If there is a slight chink in the armoury of Jos Buttler, it has to be against Rashid Khan. The duo have faced each other on numerous occasions in franchise cricket and donning the national colours and it will be one of the most awaited battles in this game. 

Out of the 72 deliveries faced against Rashid, Buttler has managed to score only 50 runs and has been dismissed four times at an average of 12.5 and a strike rate of 69.4. 

It will not be surprising if Hardik Pandya brings in his ace spinner early in the powerplay to tackle the Buttler threat. 

Hardik Pandya vs Jason Holder

The skipper of the Titans is yet to fire in the tournament and will be itching to find some form with the bat at number four. The right-handed batter will be up against Jason Holder, a bowler against whom he has struggled a bit in the past. 

Hardik has been dismissed thrice in 24 deliveries in T20s against the right-arm seamer and has an average of 9.7, the second-worst for him against a bowler with a minimum of 20 deliveries. 

Team combination

Gujarat Titans are expected to field the same playing XI, with Vijay Shankar or Josh Little expected to come in as the impact substitute depending on the toss. 

Gujarat Titans: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shubman Gill, Sai Sudharsan, Hardik Pandya (Captain), David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Mohit Sharma, Joshua Little / Vijay Shankar

If Trent Boult is fit, he will slot his way into the side in place of Kuldeep Sen. The Royals also dropped Riyan Parag in the last clash against the Super Kings and will most likely stick with the same batting unit for another game. 

Rajasthan Royals: Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson (Captain & wk), Devdutt Padikkal, Shimron Hetmyer, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jason Holder, Trent Boult / Kuldeep Sen, Sandeep Sharma, Yuzvendra Chahal

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