The elusive hat-trick – that is what Rajasthan Royals are after, as they move from Sharjah to Dubai to play their first game at the venue. The underdogs tag stayed with the Royals even after we won the first season of the Indian Premier League. It was probably thrown around after Kings XI’s first innings in Sharjah as well. To add to that, very few must’ve given us a chance after some of the struggles Tewatia faced during the chase. However, all that was put to rest with some force, thanks to his punitive hitting towards the end of the chase that won us our second consecutive game. Next up, Kolkata Knight Riders, who are yet another strong, all-round side.
Rajasthan Royals’ last encounter against KKR was perhaps their best game in the 2019 IPL. We weren’t chasing a 200+ total at Eden Gardens, but we were in a similar position to the chase at Sharjah. Riyan Parag took the attack to the KKR bowlers with some smart running and rotation of strike, before unleashing some huge hits. To top it off, Archer strode out and did the finishing with his usual penchant for gigantic sixes.
Well, that was the one good game we’ve had against them in the last 2 years. And, we need to better that come Wednesday in Dubai. Overall, RR and KKR have an even head-to-head record, winning 10 games each since 2008. It’s only in the recent years that KKR have caught up with the Royals.
Both teams are packed with some quality batsmen at the top, who can play the big shots without slogging. The good news is that our top 3 from the last game – Buttler, Smith & Samson have enjoyed good outings against KKR & their bowlers in the past. The Andre Russell factor has been managed pretty well by our bowlers too. The Jamaican is yet to fire with the bat in this tournament, and we wouldn’t want to change that anytime soon.
Dubai International Cricket Stadium
Not just Rajasthan Royals, KKR too will play at the ‘Ring of Fire’ for the first time in this season. We have played at this venue just the once in 2014. The boundaries here are longer than the ones in Sharjah, and we probably won’t see a lot of sixes. The bowlers will have some breathing space & the reliance on the batting order will be lighter than before.
Jos Buttler vs Shivam Mavi
Remember the thrashing Mavi received off Buttler’s blade in 2018? Yes, Buttler was in prime form and when he goes after a bowler, he does take them apart – the likes of Alzarri Joseph will attest to that. Mavi has been bowled exceedingly well in the first two games, and seems to have matured over the last two years. This will be an interesting battle at the start of the innings.
Sanju Samson vs Andre Russell
We’ve seen enough of Sanju smashing spinners in the first 2 matches. Perhaps, it’s time for us to watch him decimate some pacers too. He does smack them long against Andre Russell, who Karthik has employed in both of KKR’s games so far. Sanju has taken last year’s MVP for 32 runs off 18 balls, striking at 178.
Jofra Archer vs Nitish Rana
Nitish Rana has been consistently batting at number 3 for KKR since last year. If the Royals get an early break-through, he could be in for some raw pace in the form of Archer. The Englishman has kept the talented southpaw quiet, conceding just 9 runs off 12 balls and dismissing him once.
Memories of the last meeting with KKR will be fresh in the Rajasthan Royals camp. And, that will only add to the confidence the squad has gained after the first two wins. It will be interesting to watch how the batting & bowling strategy changes on a larger ground. Be prepared to watch some skilful bowling and smart batting in Dubai. Let’s go for that hat-trick!