Royals challenge for high-flying Sunrisers

On Sunday, under the scorching Jaipur sun, Kane Williamson’s men would be hoping to complete a hat-trick of wins at a venue that has yielded to a visiting team only once in five years.

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

The last time Rajasthan Royals faced Sunrisers Hyderabad at the beginning of the season, it was blown away by a Shikhar Dhawan special. Since then, a lot has changed in the eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the graphs charted by the two teams facing off here on Sunday could not have been more contrasting.

Halfway through the competition, Hyderabad has climbed its way to the top, finding different heroes in its five wins so far. While the batting has been ordinary, it has found the bowlers to defend meagre targets and the winning momentum after a brief dip that saw it losing back-to-back games.

 

On Sunday, under the scorching Jaipur sun, Kane Williamson’s men would be hoping to complete a hat-trick of wins at a venue that has yielded to a visiting team only once in five years.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar remains the spearhead but his absence was not felt in the last two games with seamer Siddarth Kaul and leg-spinner Rashid Khan being the pick of the bowlers, supported by Basil Thampi and Shakib Al-Hasan. Both have not just picked up wickets but remained frugal with their economy rates, further choking the opposition.

In fact, it has been SRH’s bowling that has largely kept it in the race. Williamson has been the best batsman on view but lacked consistent support at the other end. Having defended even a meagre total of 119 against a power-packed Mumbai Indians' side, the team is high on confidence coming into the game.

 

That confidence is something the host would like to have as well but the team's fortunes have been oscillating too much for that. It did win its last game – courtesy a blitzkrieg by K. Gowtham at the end – but the inconsistency has let the team down. Always a team more about the whole than its parts, RR would be hoping to find more match-winners.

Sanju Samson made a brilliant start to the season but has been quiet for a while now. The big-name foreign hires – Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, D’Arcy Short – have failed to fire much and Jofra Archer has played just one game. Its big splurge for the season – Jaydev Unadkat – has taken just three wickets in six games. Amidst all this, captain Ajinkya Rahane has managed to hunker down and keep his calm but he desperately needs the rest of his team to step up.

A win here would take SRH another step closer to a play-offs spot, a loss a blip that could be overcome. For RR, the stakes are much higher.

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