Will he play, or won’t he? That is the big question in the minds of Rajasthan Royals fans since their star all-rounder Ben Stokes returned to practice. Royals’ IPL 2020 campaign has tumbled off track with four consecutive losses, and they need to stop the rut immediately.
Rajasthan’s opponents for Sunday’s day match at Dubai have fared marginally better in the tournament so far. SRH have three wins from six games and find themselves in the middle table jumble, from which teams will now try to break away.
Delhi Capitals handed Rajasthan a 46-run drubbing even as Steve Smith’s men returned to Sharjah, the venue of their first two wins. SRH, on the other hand, got the better of KXIP by 69 runs with a thoroughly professional effort.
As the teams take on each other on Sunday, here’s a look at three player clashes that could impact the contest.
#1. Jonny Bairstow vs Jofra Archer
SRH skipper David Warner has not been at his attacking best this season, and his opening partner Jonny Bairstow has had to don the role of aggressor. Playing in only his second IPL season, Bairstow has already notched up 241 runs in six games at a strike rate of 138.50, crossing the half-century mark three times. His 55-ball 97 against KXIP set up the victory for SRH in the previous game. Bairstow’s excellent form is not good news for RR.
To stop SRH in their ranks, Rajasthan will need to get Bairstow's wicket early. This responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Jofra Archer. Even as RR have lost their way, Archer has kept his reputation intact with some fiery performances. He has eight wickets to his name in six matches at a strike rate of 18, and an economy of under 7.
Though Archer's 3 for 24 against Delhi Capitals was in vain, he would be keen to unsettle his World Cup-winning teammate Bairstow to gain some points for Rajasthan.
#2. Kane Williamson vs Shreyas Gopal
Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson has played a couple of nice cameos for SRH to lift the team’s total towards the end of the innings. He contributed 41 from 26 in his first match of IPL 2020 against Delhi Capitals to stun the tournament favourites. Then, in the last match against KXIP, he smashed a quick-fire 20 not out from 10 balls to push SRH over 200.
While Williamson is equally good against pace and spin, he can hit the ball a long way against slow bowlers. In the second half of SRH’s innings, he is likely to come up against RR leggie Shreyas Gopal.
While Shreyas Gopal did not have a great start to the tournament, he is slowly finding his groove. He picked up 1 for 27 against RCB and 2 for 28 against Mumbai, but did get hit for a fair few runs against Delhi in his two overs. He is a quality spinner and a tough competitor, who will be looking forward to the battle with Williamson.
Williamson undoubtedly goes in having the upper hand. However, Gopal needs to remind himself that he has troubled legends like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the past.
#3. Jos Buttler vs T Natarajan
One would have been tempted to include Rashid Khan in the player battles. But considering RR’s fragile middle-order, there is no match, at least not on paper.
Thus, Jos Buttler’s tussle with T. Natarajan assumes greater significance. The dangerous wicket-keeper batsman hasn’t got going in IPL 2020 except in the match against Mumbai Indians, where he blasted 70 in what was a lone hand in a losing cause. Buttler will be keen to make an impact with time running out for Royals.
With Bhuvneshwar Kumar out of the bowling line-up due to injury, T Natarajan has been pushed into the middle as the lead fast bowler for SRH. The left-arm pacer has not disappointed, claiming seven wickets in six matches at a strike rate of 19.57 and an economy rate of under 8.
Natarajan has got his yorkers right, and has been rewarded for the same. Knowing how crucial Buttler is to RR’s cause, he will look to dismantle the opener early in the innings.Published 11 Oct 2020, 17:10 IST