Two confident outfits - the Rajasthan Royals (RR) and the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) will battle it out in match number nine of IPL 2020 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
Rajasthan routed the struggling Chennai Super Kings, while KXIP brought their campaign on track against Royal Challengers Bangalore after experiencing the heartbreak against Delhi Daredevils.
There was a similarity in the manner both RR and KXIP won their previous encounters. It featured one scintillating innings at the top of the order that set up the game perfectly. Both RR and KXIP will now look for the others in the team to also make themselves counted.
A close battle can be expected as RR and KXIP are evenly matched in the batting and bowling department. As the two sides face-off, we take a closer look at three player battles to keen an eye on.
#1. Jos Buttler vs Mohammed Shami
Although Sanju Samson was the star performer for RR against CSK, a lot of eyes will be on England wicket-keeper batsman Jos Buttler in the contest on Sunday. Buttler is one of the most dangerous T20 hitters, and has been in fine form in recent games as well. He smacked a Test century against Pakistan, and contributed 44 and 77 not out in England’s T20I series triumph over Australia. Speaking of the IPL, Buttler has been one of the star performers for RR in the last couple of years. With 548 runs in 13 matches in 2018 and 311 runs in eight games in 2019, both at a strike rate of over 150, Buttler will be raring to go again.
The hard-hitting Englishman will face stiff opposition from KXIP's Mohammed Shami, who will not be easy to play. After battling a string of personal issues, Shami has made a comeback on the cricket field, and has turned into a match-winner across the three formats. With his variations and pace, combined with his accuracy, he has been very difficult to bat against. In two games this season for KXIP, Shami has returned with highly credible figures of 3 for 15 and 1 for 14. Can an attacking Buttler crack the Shami code?
#2. KL Rahul vs Jofra Archer
On paper, this promises to be the contest of the match. KL Rahul is coming off a sensational hundred against RCB. Not only did the KXIP skipper lead from the front with a scintillating ton, he also ensured he stayed till the very end and put Punjab in command. He learned from the mistakes of Jonny Bairstow and Mayank Agarwal, whose dismissals after being well-set cost their respective teams dearly. Rahul's hunger for runs has been on display in the last two editions of the IPL, in which he has smashed 659 and 593 runs. This season as well, Rahul’s form for KXIP is an ominous sign for opponents.
While Rahul was not troubled in any manner during his knock against RCB, he did struggle against the pacers in the match against Delhi. First, Mohit Sharma exposed his technique when he got through Rahul's defence. After which, Kagiso Rabada’s pace was too much for him to handle in the Super Over. Of course, Rahul will go into the clash high on confidence following his heroics in the previous encounter. But the extreme pace of Jofra Archer is something that can trouble the very best. Apart from smashing four consecutive sixes, Archer conceded only 26 in his four overs against CSK, in a high-scoring match where others went for plenty. That is how difficult it is to score against Archer. The Barbados-born Englishman will look to ruffle up Rahul early in the innings, and can be a significant threat for KXIP to counter.
#3. Sanju Samson vs Sheldon Cottrell
Sanju Samson was in fine form against Chennai, taking the attack into the opposition camp, and not allowing the bowlers to settle into any kind of rhythm. His clean hitting was pleasing to the eye, and his ability to clear the field with ease astonishing. In his innings of 74 from 32 balls, he hit an amazing nine sixes, not one of which was mistimed. The performance just goes to show how amazingly talented Samson is, and raises questions over why he isn’t part of the Indian limited-overs squad on a consistent basis.
Batting in the top order, Samson will have to face KXIP's Sheldon Cottrell, who is a very smart bowler, and can create troublesome angles for the batsman with his left-arm pacers. The maverick West Indian also has the knack of picking up key wickets for KXIP, as he did in the contest against RCB, dismissing Devdutt Padikkal and Virat Kohli with well-directed short balls. Samson will look to take on Cottrell as aggression is his natural game. It remains to be seen what tricks the bowler has in store for his in-form opponent.Published 27 Sep 2020, 15:24 IST