A lot will be at stake as Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) will look to brush aside a Rajasthan Royals (RR) side that is not short in their batting or bowling department. Following their three-wicket win against Rajasthan Royals (RR), RR pacer Trent Boult noted that his side possesses different players stepping up each time when needed. He’s not wrong.
Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shimron Hetmyer, Sanju Samson and even Dhruv Jurel have stepped up, while on the bowling front, other than Boult, RR have also had the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal and also Sandeep Sharma on more than one occasion proved to be the difference.
On paper, LSG come across as one of the strongest sides in the competition, but they have lacked consistency. Will that change his game onwards?
Things to watch out for
The Jos-Sanju show
It’s safe to say that Buttler and Samson are the backbones of RR’s batting. When they do well, more often than not, the team find themselves in a position to salvage a victory. However, the best part is RR have enough talent to overcome their failures. They did well when Samson got back-to-back ducks and also went on to win the game when Buttler registered a duck last game.
Buttler’s consistency over the last couple of seasons has been absolutely astonishing. Even this season, he has scored fifties in three of his five games and struck at an strike-rate of 163. His consistency against pacers and spinners has stood the test of time too.
Unlike Buttler, Samson is more of someone who likes to take on the bowling right from the first ball. His intent is evident by the fact that he has hit 16 sixes in the first 10 balls of his innings since the start of last season. He has also hit the most runs the first 10 balls (304) and has done so at an impressive strike-rate of nearly 156.
What has been impressive to see is the fact that that ALL of his sixes against spinners since IPL 2022 have come in front of the wicket – in the range between deep extra-cover and deep mid-wicket. He does not charge down the track too often, but can smack the ball into the stands just by putting in a stride or can also rock back and dispatch them over the stands with similar ease.
Moreover, his contest against Ravi Bishnoi will be interesting given that Samson has scored the most sixes (11) against leg-spin since IPL 2022 and has struck at a strike-rate of 167 against them – the best after Rishabh Pant (181) among batters who have faced at least 50 balls.
Rahul’s below-par start a worry
LSG skipper KL Rahul scored his first fifty of the season against Punjab Kings in the last game, but his 56-ball 74 was nothing to boast about. His side managed just 159 in the end and was easily chased down in the end.
His strikes at 112 in the powerplay, which further drops to 104 in the middle-overs which is a cause for concern. His slow approach could put pressure on his partners to go big, leading to a flurry of wickets. Anirudh Suresh had written how such approaches could make a difference of about 20-25 runs and significantly impact the result. One can only hope that Rahul’s approach changes sooner rather than later.
His partnership with Kyle Mayers has been one of the highlights of the tournament though, with the pair putting up 187 runs between them at a strike-rate of 141 for the first wicket.
However, it will be interesting to see if Rahul could keep continue his good run of form against Trent Boult, against whom he strikes at 163. Boult has already picked up five wickets in the first over of a match in the IPL this season and it will be interesting to see if the New Zealand pacer comes up with the goods in this game too.
The captains winning the toss at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur would surely prefer fielding first innings total in T20s since 2018 is just 149 and moreover, the team chasing have gone on to win 17 out of the 27 matches in this period.
There seems to be pretty much an equal share of wickets picked up by the pacers (54%) and spinners (46%). However, what has worked in the spinners’ favour is the fact that they have been far more economical (7) than the fast bowlers (8.1). Given that this is the first match of the season in Jaipur, the fresh wicket here could mean there could very well be plenty of runs on offer.
With three left-handers in LSG’s top five, Ravichandran Ashwin becomes an immediate threat. Ashwin is the most successful spinner against left-handers having picked up 58 wickets at an economy of 6.2. While Pooran and Mayers have scored at a strike-rate of 216.92 and 168 respectively, Krunal striking at 118.75 has not really peaked this season, but nevertheless, could be a massive threat to RR.
With Ashwin’s off-break deliveries working like a charm this time around – four wickets at an economy of 6.5 – he could be the answer to stop these big-hitters. In IPL 2023, Ashwin has conceded just 48 runs from 54 deliveries against left-handers, picking up two wickets.
The toss-up in RR could only be between Adam Zampa or Jason Holder, depending on how they interpret the surface.
Jos Buttler, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson (c & wk), Riyan Parag, Shimron Hetmyer, Dhruv Jurel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Trent Boult, Adam Zampa, Sandeep Sharma, Yuzvendra Chahal
Lucknow Super Giants
Despite their loss against Punjab Kings, LSG are likely to go in with the same XI. The only question that remains is at what point will the quality of Quinton de Kock be injected into the line-up. For now, his wait will further be extended with Mayers making the opening slot his own.
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