IPL 2018: Knights, Royals in a battle of equals

Both Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders have a perfect mix of experience and youth and that would be a big boost for them.

Rajasthan Royals team members during a training session.   -  R.V. Moorthy

High on confidence after toying with Delhi Daredevils at the Eden Gardens the other evening, Kolkata Knight Riders looks set for its away fixture on Wednesday against Rajasthan Royals — a side that has bounced back strong after the defeat against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the tournament opener — at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Wednesday.

On a track that usually helps the batsmen, both teams will have to ensure that its top-order fires. The Royals, which has had opening woes with D’Arcy Short not in best of forms, will be relying heavily on the partnership between captain Ajinkya Rahane and the young sensation Sanju Samson — who smashed the highest individual score of 92 in just 45 deliveries against Royal Challengers Bangalore the other day. Knights, on the other hand, will have to finalise its opening combination. In the last three games, the Kolkata franchise shuttled between Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa along with the big-hitting Aussie, Chris Lynn.

 

The conditions in Jaipur will be quite similar to that of Kolkata — with the temperature soaring up to 38 degrees. In the hot but not so humid conditions, it will be interesting to see how the Knights settle down.

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The Royals, in its ranks, has Ben Stokes, a game changer. The England all-rounder, who is the highest buy of the season, has not been able to convert the good starts, and he would be hoping to put his case against the Knights. Interestingly, it would also be a clash between two big-hitters of the game — Stokes and Andre Russell.

It was because of the West Indies star Kolkata Knight Riders stifled out Delhi Daredevils in its last home fixture. In a blitzkrieg knock of 41 in 12 balls, Russell stole the Daredevils thunder, and he will be hoping to continue that streak against the Royals as well. So, when the action gets underway at the iconic venue, the fans will be waiting for the duel between Stokes and Russell.

Both sides have a perfect mix of experience and youth and that would be a big boost for them. In the previous game against Royal Challengers, Jos Butler came in handy, playing a knock of 23. That is something Royals would want in its second home game as well.

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Another area of huge importance would be the spin bowling department. With Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine in its ranks, KKR’s spin battery looks set, while for Rajasthan, it is going to be all about Krishnappa Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal.

The pace, on the other hand, remains an area of concern for both the sides. If Knights would be hoping not to leak runs at the death, Royals will sincerely be wanting its top recruit Jaydev Unadkat to fire. Being the costliest Indian pacer, Unadkat still has not looked that fiery, and this is his chance to make an impact.

After reaching Jaipur late in the afternoon, Knights decided cool the heels ahead of the fixture. But for a buoyant Royals, it was all about sweating it out at the nets. Its last home match was truncated due to heavy downpour, and when it returns to action at the home turf, Royals would be hoping for some Halla Bol!