Rajasthan Royals returns to Jaipur in the Indian Premier League after nearly four years as it looks to further its grip at the top of the table with a win over second-placed Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Wednesday.
Royals march back into their fortress – the men in pink have a win percentage of 68 at the venue, the second best for a side at a home venue in IPL – after conquering defending champion Gujarat Titans for the first time in four attempts.
Sanju Samson’s men would take great pride in that win, having been 4 for 2 in three overs in its chase of Titans’ 177. Samson and Shimron Hetmyer led the revival with sparkling half-centuries, while the lower order provided the requisite support to achieve a win, thought to be improbable at a point.
LSG though come into the game on the back of a close defeat at the hands of Punjab Kings. KL Rahul’s side fought admirably trying to defend a par score but fell short thanks to Shahrukh Khan’s late flourish.
Rahul was his side’s top scorer with 74 but came under the pump for his underwhelming strike rate, having eaten up 56 balls in the process.
Rahul will be up against the left-arm pace of Trent Boult, who had bowled him for a golden duck with a searing inswinger in the sides’ previous IPL encounter.
Boult will be backed up by Purple Cap-holder Yuzvendra Chahal and the wily Ravichandran Ashwin. In the last two games, the Royals have added in the zing of Aussie leg spinner Adam Zampa to beef up their spin attack. The home side also has the option of bringing back West Indian all-rounder Jason Holder, who has delivered when called upon.
“I haven’t seen the wicket yet. It is usually a good one, with a big ground. From my experience of having played here with RCB, I think 170-180 would be enough,” said Chahal, who is yet to play for the Royals at this stadium.
LSG’s bowling form has oscillated from exemplary to mediocrity in this tournament. It has conceded 200-plus totals in alternate games but has been hard to get away in the others.
It will have its task cut out against a Royals’ batting lineup which is in stirring form.
Royals’ opening duo Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal will look to make amends for their failures against Titans by delivering their trademark express start, against LSG.
A battle to watch out for will be the one between two Englishmen – Mark Wood with his express pace and Buttler with his effortless power hitting. Wood is LSG’s leading wicket-taker this season with 11 scalps, including a five-wicket haul.
The away side might contemplate bringing in the experienced Quinton de Kock for Kyle Mayers, whose form seems to have tapered off after a flying start.
Royals have held the upper hand over LSG in their previous meetings, having won both their games last season.
The 2019 IPL season, when the Royals last played at the ground, was a disappointing one for them, finishing second to last. But things have changed since then. Samson’s side finished runner-up last season and a triumphant return home could see it go four points clear at the top of the league.
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