Match 18 of the IPL 2021 season will see the Rajasthan Royals (RR) take on the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. It is a battle between two teams in the bottom half of the table and both will be keen to bounce back from losses in their previous outings.
RR were thrashed by the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in their last match. Devdutt Padikkal's dazzling hundred ensured the table-toppers thumped them by ten wickets.
KKR, on the other hand, had their top order to blame for their loss to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in their previous game. Despite some heroic knocks down the order from Andre Russell and Pat Cummins, they fell short of CSK's mammoth target of 221.
RR vs KKR: 3 batsmen to watch out for
It was clearly evident in the previous games of both these teams that any total around the 200-run mark could not be regarded as a match-winning total. Thus, it is imperative that whoever bats first posts a mammoth total on the board.
On that note, let's have a look at three batsmen who could go big in the upcoming encounter between RR and KKR:
#3 Jos Buttler
Despite admitting that the Wankhede Stadium has been his favorite place to bat, Jos Buttler hasn't been able to set the stage on fire in the four games that RR have played here so far.
He looked good against CSK, where he scored 49, but overall he has just 84 runs to his name this season. Buttler was once again asked to bat in the middle-order in the first game this season, but is back at the top due to the injury to Ben Stokes.
With a number of overseas players unavailable and RR's inexperienced middle-order misfiring, it will be important for Buttler to come good against KKR. RR have already lost three of their four games and will need their senior batsman to step up and put on a show on the batting paradise at the Wankhede Stadium.
#2 Nitish Rana
The decision to persist with Nitish Rana at the top of the order has paid rich dividends for the KKR team management. The southpaw has been KKR's highest run-scorer with 164 runs so far. However, he had a rare failure in the last couple of games.
The importance of cashing in on the powerplay has been quite evident this season. With fellow opener Shubman Gill struggling to find consistency, Rana will be key to getting KKR off to a flying start. When he gets going, there are very few better sights to watch in the IPL.
Rana has done well whenever he has got off to a good start and can certainly dominate the RR bowling attack that is leaking runs left, right and center. If KKR have to get back to winning ways, Rana will surely need to fire against RR.
#1 Andre Russell
Andre Russell looked completely out of touch when KKR played their first three games in Chennai. But as soon as they came to the Wankhede, the pace and bounce in the pitch was always going to suit Russell's style of power-hitting.
The big Jamaican clobbered the CSK bowlers to all parts of the ground and scored a blistering 54 off just 22 balls. Had it not been for his unfortunate dismissal, KKR might well have pulled off the steep chase of 221, despite being 31-5 at one stage.
This has once again sparked a debate about where Russell should bat. Because he had enough deliveries to face, he absolutely took the CSK bowling attack to the cleaners. Thus, there would surely be a case to promote Russell in the batting order.
Since lots of runs are needed at the Wankhede Stadium to stay in the game, it will be interesting to see where Russell bats as he can single-handedly win the game for KKR.