Jonhenry Wilson previews Wednesday’s IPL fixture which sees the Rajasthan Royals battle it out against the Kolkata Knight Riders in Jaipur.
The Royals lost their first match of the tournament but have since gone onto twin wins over Delhi and Bangalore – and are attempting to complete the tri-fector against Kolkata.
Kolkata, meanwhile, were utterly convincing in victory over the Daredevils earlier this week – and are eager to improve on a disappointing recent track record against Rajasthan.
RR vs KKR | Wednesday, 18 April | Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur | 16:30
To Win Match
Rajasthan Royals 23/20
Kolkata Knight Riders 72/100
Familiar themes continue to follow Rajasthan’s campaign: the loss of Steven Smith, the elevation of Ajinkya Rahane and plenty of expectation that Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat bring value for their expensive price tags at the player auction earlier this year. Wednesday, then, is another chance for all these scenarios to deliver on circumstance.
They have an absolute gem in Sanju Samson, who is just going about his business as a relatively low-profile player among a slew of big names. Samson is quickly separating himself from a string of other pretenders jostling for Indian middle-order notoriety – and this week presents another chance to impress the national selectors.
He, and the rest of the Rajasthan batsmen, will be hard pressed against a Knight Riders attack brimming with confidence on the back of Monday’s straightforward win over Delhi. Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav, turning the ball into the right-handers, will be tough to successfully negotiate in particular.
Rajasthan did not lose to the Knight Riders in the 2014 or 2015 competition – and remain proud and eager to make their return to the tournament count. To do this, too, they simply have to find the right way to combat Andre Russell, whose six-hitting ability and form is second to none at the moment.
Kolkata Knight Riders
The size of Monday’s triumph over the Delhi Daredevils spoke volumes of Kolkata’s intent this year. They made some big pre-season decisions, including the exclusion of Gautam Gambhir, and are under pressure every match to validate these choices. So far, so good, but defeat to Rajasthan could return the criticism.
Narine and Yadav in tandem will be key, as will the need for the other batsmen to bat around Russell, especially if opener Chris Lynn can’t deliver at the top of the order. While nobody is really questioning Lynn’s place in the side yet, he has to balance the quest for boundaries against dot balls. He is gathering far too many of the latter at the moment.
Tom Curran versus Stokes will be an intriguing battle within the war. The Englishmen lead the line of several countryman in this year’s IPL, but neither have really come to the party ahead of, say, Jos Buttler or Jason Roy yet. Both, particularly Curran, who is still making a name for himself, will want to address this.
Currently second in the standings four matches into their campaign, Kolkata will be pleased enough with their start, but know full well the importance of momentum in Twenty20 cricket. Captain Dinesh Karthik has a point to prove, as skipper and opening batsman, but needs all his troops to follow suit.
Verdict: Rajasthan Royals 23/20
Home ground advantage and an unblemished recent history against Wednesday’s opposition should see Rahane and company take this one, especially if Russell is removed early.