KKR will once against bank on Russell to play the match-changing innings. © BCCI
IPL 2018 has changed colour over the last few days. The trend of chasing to win has given way to a new one – that of the par first innings scores getting a boost upwards. Two teams that have led the way in this change are Rajasthan Royals (against Royal Challengers Bangalore) and Kolkata Knight Riders (against Delhi Daredevils). It isn’t a change that can as yet force captains to take a gamble and opt to bat first, but it’s one that will let them believe that all isn’t lost once the toss is.
The two teams are equal on points, with KKR ahead on net run rate and have found people that have raised their games to newer heights so far. The leading run-scorers in the tournament so far – Sanju Samson and Andre Russell – have been the leaders of this new change. Eye-catching in their own, distinctly different ways – one loaded with muscle and the other with magical touch – Russell and Samson have found different paths to the same goal.
It is around them that two teams, not quite gifted with the depth of replacements, have rallied while finding people to support the duo. Many stars (Ben Stokes for RR, Chris Lynn for KKR) from the first elevens of both teams are yet to deliver what they’re capable of but support has come from a few others. That Sunil Narine and Shreyas Gopal are the most economical bowlers in the tournament so far has largely been overshadowed by the batting efforts in high scoring games.
Going by the form shown by the two, the key for each team to outwit the other will ride a lot on how they stop the two batsmen. Russell has been merciless on anything within his swinging zone but well-directed short balls seem to be out of that zone so far, as shown briefly by Umesh Yadav. While Samson hasn’t revealed such a chink in his armoury so far, his battles against the spin of Narine and Kuldeep Yadav could be the key as RR look to defend their fortress. If KKR get him early, they’ll fancy their chances against a largely untested middle order.
When: April 18, 2018, 20:00 IST
Where: Sawai Man Singh Stadium, Jaipur
What to expect: The first game here was heavily interrupted by rain but the forecast for this game reads better.
Head to Head: RR have won nine games while KKR have won six. In Jaipur, RR have won three games and KKR have managed just one win.
Rajasthan Royals: The only possible change for RR will come if and when Jofra Archer recovers fully from his side strain. While Archer has been actively participating in practice sessions, whether he’s match fit is yet to be seen. Meanwhile, the rope could be getting shorter for D’Arcy Short who has scores of 4, 6 and 11 so far. Heinrich Klaasen will be breathing down his neck but Short’s left-arm wrist spin capabilities will probably ensure that he stays longer.
Probable XI: Ajinkya Rahane (c), D’Arcy Short, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Rahul Tripathi, Jos Buttler, Krishnappa Gowtham, Ben Laughlin, Shreyas Gopal, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat
Kolkata Knight Riders: They’re unlikely to tinker with a team that has managed to win convincingly in their previous outing. They will be sweating a lot over the fitness of Russell though.
Probable XI: Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (c), Shubman Gill, Andre Russell, Shivam Mavi, Piyush Chawla, Tom Curran, Kuldeep Yadav
Narine vs Rahane and Samson: Samson has scored at a strike rate of 80.76 against Narine getting out twice in 26 balls. On the other hand, Narine has dismissed Rahane thrice in 36 balls conceding just 33 runs (since 2013).
Unadkat vs Uthappa: Unadkat has dismissed Uthappa twice in 17 balls conceding 21 runs (since IPL 2013).
D’Arcy Short needs 13 more runs to complete 1000 runs in 20-over cricket while Chirs Lynn is three runs short of 3000 runs in the T20 format.
What they said:
“You sleep with a lot of thoughts, you wake up with a lot of thoughts, something I’m getting used to. Need to balance those thoughts and try to separate batting from captaincy” – Dinesh Karthik is still coming to terms with captaincy.