Defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) will play an inconsistent Rajasthan Royals (RR) in game number 45 of IPL 2020 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
After Kings XI Punjab brought down Mumbai with the aid of two Super Overs, MI recovered to crush Chennai Super Kings by 10 wickets. Rajasthan, in contrast, suffered a brutal eight-wicket defeat at the hands of Sunrisers Hyderabad.
MI are currently sitting pretty at the top of the points table with 14 points from 10 games. RR, on the other hand, are way down at the seventh spot, having accumulated only eight points from 11 games.
While Mumbai are in top form at present, they would be worried about the fitness of skipper Rohit Sharma, who missed the last gave owing to a hamstring injury.
As MI face RR on Sunday, here are three player battles to keep an eye on.
#1. Quinton de Kock vs Jofra Archer
Mumbai opener Quinton de Kock has been in amazing form in IPL 2020. In 10 matches, he has garnered 368 runs at a strike rate of 143.19 with four half-centuries. de Kock has looked fluent on the crease, and has been successful in dominating the opposition.
It is thanks to de Kock’s consistency that Mumbai haven’t been hampered much despite Rohit Sharma not being at his best. Mumbai would want the keeper-batsman to maintain the tempo through to the end of the tournament.
One of the biggest challenges for Mumbai batsmen will come against the pace of Jofra Archer. Even as RR have struggled as a team, the Barbados-born Archer has stood tall quite literally. In 11 matches, he has picked up 15 wickets at a strike rate of 17.46 and an economy of 6.61.
Archer has troubled most batsmen with his pace and bounce. The task for him will be tougher against de Kock, but the latter has been done in by the rising delivery in the past — one area where Archer can target de Kock.
#2. Ben Stokes vs Trent Boult
Rajasthan were hoping for a change in fortunes following the arrival of world-class all-rounder Ben Stokes. Unfortunately for RR, that hasn’t quite proved to be the case. Stokes hasn’t looked in any kind of form either with the bat or ball.
In five matches, the England great has only managed 110 runs at a disappointing strike rate of 106.79. Stokes’ crawl only made matters worse for RR. But we all know how dangerous Stokes can be once he gets his eye in. RR can only pray that Stokes finds his mojo.
Opening the innings, Stokes will face a major challenge in the form of Trent Boult. The Kiwi pacer put a sensational effort against Chennai Super Kings in the last game to finish with figures of 4 for 18. The top and middle order of CSK were completely blown away by the New Zealander.
Apart from the poor game against Kings XI Punjab, the left-arm pacer has been in excellent form, and has claimed 16 wickets at a strike rate of 14.75, and an economy of 8.05. He will have the edge over Stokes given his current form.
#3. Jos Buttler vs Rahul Chahar
Unlike the last two editions of the IPL, RR’s wicket-keeper bat Jos Buttler has not quite set the tournament on fire. From 10 matches, he has managed 271 runs at a strike rate of 139.69. Per se, these are not bad numbers, and Buttler even has a couple of 70s to his name.
However, given his talent and the kind of impact player he is, a lot more is expected of Buttler. While RR’s chances of making are play-offs are wafer-thin, a blistering knock from Buttler can lift their morale.
While the likes of de Kock, Boult and Bumrah have walked away with most of the plaudits for Mumbai’s impressive show, Rahul Chahar has quietly gone about doing the job for which he was chosen. Teasing the batsmen with his loopy deliveries, the leggie has claimed 13 scalps in 10 matches at a strike rate of 16.61 and an economy of just a shade over 7.
He will fancy his chances against Buttler as well, but that doesn’t mean the latter is going to hold back. It will be a matter of all or nothing for Buttler against Chahar.