It’s 7 versus 8 in Match 37 of IPL 2020 in Abu Dhabi. It has been a strange season for both Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals in many ways with only three wins in nine games each. Criclytics gives them only 11 and 5 per cent chance respectively to make it to the Playoffs.
However, the way cookie has crumbled this season, 14 points might be enough to fetch the fourth spot and both teams still have time to attain that magical number on the points table. The condition remains that they start stringing victories together without further delay and set the ball rolling with this fixture.
Who replaces Bravo?
Anything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong for CSK in this campaign. Almost every chink in their armour that was concealed by two great seasons in 2018 and 2019 have been exposed this year. The unavailability of Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh have skewed their fortunes further. Now, they are facing the consequences of an ageing side.
Against Delhi Capitals, Dwayne Bravo went off the field and according to their coach, Stephen Fleming, he is expected to stay on the sidelines for a few more games. This gives CSK an opportunity to play Imran Tahir and bolster the spin department with an outright match-winner.
Although, MS Dhoni mentioned that when they plug one hole, other holes open up and Tahir’s inclusion will fall under the same dilemma. It will leave them searching for pace bowling options for the death overs. Both Sam Curran and Shardul Thakur have been up and down. Hence, they would also want to play one amongst Josh Hazlewood or Lungi Ngidi.
Positives with the bat
Shane Watson’s continued run of decent scores is a massive relief for CSK. After starting slow, Watson has fed CSK with crucial batting contributions at top of the order. In between, Ambati Rayudu has done well in adapting to the situation of the game. Down the order, there is Ravindra Jadeja who is enjoying his best IPL season with the bat. The left-hander has scored 159 runs at a strike-rate of 180.7 this year - the highest for him in a season to date.
Moreover, his strike-rate during the death overs has been 212.5, the highest for CSK and the fourth-highest in the competition.
While MS Dhoni is still struggling for form, runs from this trio has reduced the pressure from Faf du Plessis. The last time these two teams met, in Match 4, it was only du Plessis who was amongst runs, hence allowing the RR bowlers to get a hold of them.
Young Kartik pairing up with Archer
RR’s bowling fortunes have suffered with no-one putting their hand up to support Jofra Archer. He has the best economy-rate and bowling average in the side by a distance.
The young Kartik Tyagi, although, has extended his hand for support. His overall economy-rate might not make heads turn but the 19-year old surprisingly has been most economical during the death overs.
The mantra behind his success has been bowling full and straight with pace. Overall, he has landed 13 yorkers correctly - the fifth-most in the league to date despite playing lesser number of games than those above him. At the death, 48 percent of his deliveries have been yorkers or attempted yorkers.
Him and Archer against the CSK batsmen at the death could be the most mouth-watering contest of the match.
The uncertainty over RR’s batting order
In nine matches, RR have tried five opening pairs. In their last game, Jos Buttler swapped positions with Robin Uthappa and went down the order. Uthappa played a fluent knock but Buttler, arguably their best batsman, couldn’t get himself going.
The problem with RR is that all the major batsmen in their squad are top-order batsmen. None of them have been consistent enough to seal a spot in the top three. As a result, RR have tried everything to find a productive batting order but after nine games, they are still chopping and changing.
What combination they bat with against CSK is a mystery. The absence of a finisher and Uthappa’s success against RCB might persuade them to continue experimenting with Buttler in the middle-order. Or will we see Buttler open with Uthappa and Ben Stokes at four or five?
Chennai Super Kings:
Kedar Jadhav’s inclusion in the previous game was baffling but given he neither batted nor bowled, he might hold his place in the side. The quandary around the spot vacated by Bravo’s injury will be resolved at the toss only. The rest of the side is expected to be the same.
Sam Curran, Faf du Plessis, Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Karn Sharma, Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir/Lungi Ngidi/Josh Hazlewood
Another underwhelming performance by Jaydev Unadkat has raised questions over his place again. Will RR swap him with Ankit Rajpoot or Varun Aaron to rush CSK with more pace?
Robin Uthappa, Ben Stokes, Steve Smith (c), Sanju Samson (wk), Jos Buttler, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Kartik Tyagi, Jaydev Unadkat/Ankit Rajpoot/Varun Aaron