The Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals are in a bit of crisis at this point in the tournament. Both sides have lost six of their nine games. Both lost their respective last matches, which were close contests, and desperately need their wicketkeeper-batsmen to click. But there were positives in their respective losses too – a few of their batsmen showed good hitting form, albeit a bit too late into the tournament. Or maybe not.
The chopping and changing of the line-up has not been fruitful, but the Royals’ batting looked in much better shape in the match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, with a few drastic but much-needed changes in place. While Robin Uthappa’s promotion to the top of the order worked well, captain Steven Smith at his usual No. 4 position hit form with a half-century and gave them the required impetus in the middle order. Sanju Samson, however, has continued to struggle with the bat after a dream start to the tournament. In the end, an incredible AB de Villiers assault and the gamble of giving Jaydev Unadkat the penultimate over instead of Jofra Archer cost them two points.
For the Super Kings, however, it was fielding slip-ups that proved costly in the game against the Delhi Capitals. Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis, although a bit slow to get off the blocks with the bat, laid out the foundation. Their middle order, which had lacked firepower up to that point, stepped up and plundered 57 runs off the last four overs against arguably the best death bowling attack in the tournament. Jadeja, coming in after MS Dhoni’s yet another low score, struck a 13-ball 33 not out as Ambati Rayudu helped from the other end with an unbeaten 25-ball 45.
While both sides’ campaigns are nearing a point of no return, a win for either of these teams will give their playoffs pursuit a push.
In the news
Dwayne Bravo’s groin injury kept him off the field during the Capitals’ chase, which eventually prevented him from bowling the crucial final over of the match. Coach Stephen Fleming said Bravo would miss “a few days or a couple of weeks”. The Super Kings could look to bring back Josh Hazlewood or go for an extra spinner in Imran Tahir.
A Samson special ensured a 16-run win for the Royals in their opening match of the season in Sharjah. Samson slammed a 32-ball 74 and took Royals to 216. In response, the Super Kings fell short by 16 runs even as du Plessis scored a 37-ball 72.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Faf du Plessis, 2 Sam Curran, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Deepak Chahar, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Karn Sharma, 11 Josh Hazlewood/ Imran Tahir
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Jos Buttler (wk), 2 Robin Uthappa, 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Ben Stokes 6 Riyan Parag, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Jofra Archer, 9 Shreyas Gopal/Mayank Markande, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Kartik Tyagi
The Super Kings could use Sam Curran as a floater. Curran opened the innings in the last two games with contrasting returns: against the Sunrisers, he made a 21-ball 31 but was dismissed for a duck against the Capitals. He could be used in the middle overs to counter the Royals’ spinners as he averages over 50 and strikes at 241 against spin this season.
Are the Royals missing a trick by pushing Jos Buttler down the order? Buttler has been at his best while opening the innings and is the only opener, apart from Chris Gayle, to average over 40 and strike at 150-plus in the IPL. Meanwhile, Stokes has not been particularly successful in his new role at the top. Will the Royals swap their positions?
Will the Royals bring in Mayank Markande against the Super Kings? The Super Kings haven’t exactly been at their best against spin this year, with a scoring rate of only 7.7. This might prompt the Royals to bring in Markande and bowl him along with Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia, also considering the fact that their legspinners picked up four wickets during the reverse fixture earlier in the tournament.
Stats that matter
The Super Kings and the Royals were among the top spin units in 2019 but their spinners have been misfiring this season. While the Super Kings spinners have been the most expensive this season, with an economy of 9.1, the Royals’ have taken the least wickets (12).
Jofra Archer has been the key for the Royals this season, both in the powerplay and at the death. Among fast bowlers who have bowled at least 20 overs this season, Archer has the best economy (7).
Dhoni is set to be the first to 200 matches in the IPL.
The Royals have lost the most wickets in the powerplay compared to other teams this season. They’ve lost 27 wickets in nine matches and on average, have lost a wicket almost every 16th ball.
Rayudu is five short of 5000 T20 runs.