Ben Stokes is firing, with bat and ball. Sanju Samson seems to have rediscovered his early season form. Jos Buttler is prepared to play finisher. And Jofra Archer – bubble fatigue or not – is almost unplayable. Talk about peaking at the almost-too-late-but-not-quite time.
The Rajasthan Royals are still in IPL 2020. They will stay there with a victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday but they will need help from elsewhere if they are to qualify for the playoffs. Both teams will be keeping an especially watchful eye on the evening game because if the Kings XI Punjab win that, things get dicey.
The Knight Riders are in a similar position. But the problem is their net run-rate (-0.467) is so low that they will not only have to win their last match, they have to hope no other team ties with them on 14 points.
In the news
If ever there was a time for Andre Russell, it is now. But the allrounder hasn’t played a game in two weeks and in the absence of any update from the Knight Riders, it is likely that he won’t be fit for this one either.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Nitish Rana, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Sunil Narine, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Rinku Singh/Prasidh Krishna, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Kamlesh Nagarkoti, 11 Varun Chakravarthy
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ben Stokes, 2 Robin Uthappa, 3 Sanju Samson (wk), 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Jos Buttler, 6 Riyan Parag, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Jofra Archer, 9 Shreyas Gopal, 10 Varun Aaron/Ankit Rajpoot, 11 Kartik Tyagi
Defending 174, the Knight Riders’ fast bowlers Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti ripped through the Royals – four of the top five fell for single digits – to seal a 37-run win.
Sunil Narine is the Knight Riders’ best asset right now. And with their campaign hanging by a thread, they have to start the game well. Only, they aren’t taking any wickets in the powerplay. Well, they have eight across the whole season, which is the worst by any team. So maybe they should unleash their trump card in the first six overs. Plus, here are Narine’s T20 head-to-heads with the Royals’ top order: Stokes (17 balls, 17 runs, one dismissal), Samson (45 balls, 39 runs, three dismissals), Steven Smith (42 balls, 47 runs, two dismissals), Buttler (41 balls, 43 runs, two dismissals).
The Royals have struggled to find a good bowling partner for Archer at the top of the innings. Perhaps they could try Shreyas Gopal. The legspinner is at his best in the powerplay (eight IPL wickets at an average of 13 and economy rate of 7), and he isn’t half bad at bowling to left-handers – the Knight Riders have a lot of those – with 13 IPL wickets at an average of 24.46 and economy rate of 7.45.
Stats that matter
Stokes has shown dramatic improvement over the past two matches. Where he could only go at a strike rate of 110 in the powerplay during his first five matches of the season, he is now whacking it with a strike rate of 195.
Varun Chakravarthy is the only fingerspinner with more than ten wickets this IPL. The only spinners with more than his tally (15) are Yuzvendra Chahal (18) and Rashid Khan (17).
Samson has recorded the most 30-plus scores (five) for the Royals this year. He has recorded the most single-digit scores (six) for them as well.
Fourteen of Archer’s 19 wickets this season have been of top-order batsmen. The next (and slightly distant) best is Chahal with ten top-order wickets.
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