Thu, 29 Oct 2020

Can high-flying Rajasthan Royals make it three in three?

ESPNCricInfo
30 Sep 2020, 00:43 GMT+10

7:16 PM ISTBig picture

It was last in 2015, the year before their two-year ban, that Rajasthan Royals won their first three games in a season. Having started the 2020 season with two wins, including a record-breaking highest successful IPL chase on Sunday courtesy Rahul Tewatia and Sanju Samson, they go in to Tuesday's clash with a chance to emulate this.

Having played their opening two games in Sharjah, where they made scores of 216 and 226, they will now play on a bigger ground and on perhaps a more challenging surface in Dubai. This could mean a slight recaliberation of their plans. Their spinners will come into play a lot more and their batsmen may not find hitting through the line as effortless as they may have in Sharjah.

Royals, however, have concerns in their bowling even though Sharjah may not be an ideal barometer to base their performance on. Jaydev Unadkat, their lead Indian bowler, has proved expensive in both his outings. The highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy season is yet to strike. He also didn't complete his quota of overs against Kings XI Punjab. His potential replacement Varun Aaron has also been expensive in the past. They have two rookies in Kartik Tyagi and Akash Singh waiting on the bench. Should they call up one of them on a bigger ground?

Knight Riders, meanwhile, rebounded strongly after a pounding at the hands of Mumbai Indians in their opener. Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Eoin Morgan, their finisher, sewed up a regulation chase. Shubman Gill, who they see as a future star, set it up for them upfront along with Nitish Rana, another talent they've invested heavily in. Questions over Sunil Narine's form and his effectiveness against the short ball continue to persist, but the upside to his patchy form is that he doesn't eat up too many balls in the powerplay.

Kuldeep Yadav's form, however, continues to be a real concern. The team's strike bowler until 2018, Kuldeep averages a wicket every 55 balls since IPL 2018. Last season, nine games yielded a mere four wickets. In their second game, after going for 39 runs in four wicketless overs, he didn't even bowl his full quota of overs.

Varun Chakravarthy, their second spinner - more in the Narine mould - helped get through the middle overs economically on his debut for the franchise. Over the years, Knight Riders have had the reputation of backing their players - both Indian and overseas. Russell, who had to serve a year-long doping ban, and Narine, whose action had been under scrutiny on and off, being prime examples. Can Kuldeep repay that faith?

In the newsLikely XIs

Rajasthan Royals: 1 Jos Buttler (wk), 2 Steven Smith (capt), 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Robin Uthappa, 5 Riyan Parag, 6 Rahul Tewatia, 7 Shreyas Gopal, 8 Tom Curran, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Ankit Rajpoot/Varun Aaron, 11 Jaydev Unadkat

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Dinesh Karthik (capt & wk), 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Kamlesh Nagarkoti, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Shivam Mavi, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Varun Chakravarthy

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