Spicy clash awaits as new look Rajasthan lock horns with struggling Punjab

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20 Sep 2021 | 01:45 PM
authorAakash Sivasubramaniam

Spicy clash awaits as new look Rajasthan lock horns with struggling Punjab

Two teams with fortune similar to each other, Punjab Kings and Rajasthan Royals need to get off the mark in quick fashion

If there was ever a clash that would depict the sheer thrill of the Indian Premier League in the last two seasons, it has to be these two sides locking horns against each other. Over the last two years, this particular fixture has seen plenty of high-scoring thrillers, enigmatic performances and crunching bowling displays. 

When these two sides last met each other in Mumbai, it was literally raining sixes but somehow in the mud, Punjab found an able death-over bowler in Arshdeep Singh, who denied Sanju Samson with his toe-crushers. However, the venue won’t be Mumbai but instead the two would face off in Dubai, one of the wry conditions in the Middle East, where batting hasn’t looked easy this season. 

Sitting at fifth place, Rajasthan 2.0 have a lot of potential on paper, with the additions of Evin Lewis, Glenn Phillips, Tabraiz Shamsi and the timely return of Liam Livingstone. But at the same time, they still have their worries active, with the form of their spin attack under the pump. Their opponents on the night, Punjab are on-par with Rajasthan in terms of points having played the one game extra. 

Can Evin Lewis solve Rajasthan’s opening woes?

Rajasthan Royals have had it tough over last two years finding a stable opening pair. They have tried Manan Vohra, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Yashasvi Jaiswal. While Vohra’s poor form in the first half of the season eliminates him from the race, the turnaround in Jaiswal’s form has definitely boosted his place. The major worry, however, surrounds with the absence of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler – two pillars of Rajasthan’s batting unit. 

In the first half of this IPL season, Rajasthan had the second-worst opening record, with an average of 24.1/dismissal and losing a wicket every 17.5th ball. Just when Jaiswal-Buttler were turning corners for the franchise, they will have to start all over again. Enter Evin Lewis, one of the best openers in T20 cricket over the last two years.



The first few words that come to fans’ mind when they hear Lewis – explosion, fireworks and mad-like consistency. Since 2019, Lewis has upgraded his T20 game, with 681 runs for Windies, at 30.95 while cracking it at 153. 

In T20 competitions since 2020, the southpaw has scored 685 runs in the powerplay phase, averaging 38.06, striking at 144.82, with a boundary every 4.15th delivery and a six every 10.28th delivery. For Rajasthan to upgrade their powerplay game, they need to see no more than Lewis.

Punjab Kings need a better show from their middle-order

In IPL 2020, Punjab Kings’ middle-order (4-7) had the second-best strike-rate in the competition, at 138.2 only behind eventual champions Mumbai Indians. Not only did they average 23.1 runs for every wicket lost, they struck a boundary every 6.3 deliveries, fourth best in the league. A major reason behind that success – Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran.



The two southpaws aggregated for 641 of Punjab’s runs, with Pooran in particular, striking it at 169.7 while Gayle struck at 137.1. In a contrasting fortune, the Punjab Kings have the worst strike-rate for any team in the middle-order, at just 116.3, in 2021. Not just that, the franchise also averages just 14.6 runs/wicket, losing a middle-order batsman every 12.5th delivery, only behind Sunrisers Hyderabad as the worst side. 

Even the signing of Dawid Malan, the promotion of Deepak Hooda and the trust in Nicholas Pooran proved to be worthless for the side. As we already explored in the Aiden Makram piece, there is a vivid possibility that the franchise might push Mayank Agarwal to the middle-over to re-elevate their middle-over hurray.

The addition of Tabraiz Shamsi, game-changer?

A Chris Morris-led Royals bowling attack have been the joint best pace attack in the tournament thus far, with 34 wickets, averaging 25.2, conceding runs at just 8.3 RPO. Morris has picked up 14 of the 34 wickets, at a strike-rate of 11.1, with him only behind Harshal Patel (17) in the purple cap list., with nine of his wickets having come at the death. 

While that solves one of Rajasthan’s major worries in the absence of Jofra Archer, it has led to an issue elsewhere, with their spin bowling in the middle-overs phase of the innings. Only three wickets for the Royals last season came via the spin department, at an economy rate of 10.4, averaging 107.7 runs/wicket. Every 62nd ball, the franchise picked up a wicket via spin, that is once every ten overs.

Unlike other franchises, Rajasthan have made a conscious decision of adding Tabraiz Shamsi in the mix. In the last two years, Shamsi has picked up 62 wickets in 52 T20s, averaging 17.3 at an economy rate of 6.6 with the ball (overs 7-14). 

Probable XIs

Punjab Kings: KL Rahul (c and wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Deepak Hooda, Nicholas Pooran, Shahrukh Khan, Harpreet Brar, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh.

Rajasthan Royals: Evin Lewis, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson (c and wk), Liam Livingstone, Shivam Dube, Riyan Parag, Chris Morris, Rahul Tewatia, Tabraiz Shamsi, Chetan Sakariya, Kartik Tyagi

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Punjab Kings vs Rajasthan RoyalsIndian Premier League, 2021Rajasthan RoyalsPunjab KingsEvin LewisJos ButtlerYashasvi JaiswalNicholas PooranChris GayleTabraiz Shamsi

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