PBKS search for top-order to fire in a timely manner. Mullanpur

A short while ago, Trent Boult led the Rajasthan Royals, who claimed nine wickets in PowerPlays during the IPL 2024, with five of those blows. They have now gone two games without a breakthrough in that phase, and on Saturday when they play an uncertain Punjab Kings at Mullanpur in pace-friendly conditions, the quicks will have to step up once again to get their season back on track.

This was the time in the last edition that RR’s campaign started to wane. They had a similar start to the 2023 IPL season, winning all five of their first games 4-1, but they lost six of the final nine games to finish outside the top four. At the start of what would now be a lengthy away leg—RR will be travelling for six of their next seven games—the current leaders in the standings would be praying that their last-ball loss to GT two nights ago was just a slight setback.

By the way, Kings are much more in need of those two points to save their season. They are now ranked ninth, having lost three of their opening five games. Their experience at their new stadium, where there has been a lot of movement for the pacers under lights, has been uneventful. However, their tight two-run loss to SRH earlier this week was a result of some of their first-choice XI’s greatest batting attractions providing limited returns, which left too much for the finishers to do in a second straight game.

While Sam Curran and Shikhar Dhawan have only had a few significant hits before their form tailed off, opener Jonny Bairstow, power-hitter Jitesh Sharma, and Prabhsimran Singh—who has been constantly supported as the Impact Sub—have not lived up to the hype thus far. While both teams struggle in the first overs, RR’s skipper Sanju Samson—who is also vying with Jitesh for the spot as World Cup keeper—and their new number four, Riyan Parag, have come through for them in the middle overs phase. The top three players in Punjab have only scored one 50+ score between them.

The bright side of this, though, has been the rise of Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma as elite finishers. They managed to chase down the 200-run goal in Ahmedabad and came very close to giving the home audience an encore the very next game.

Despite giving up far too many runs in the middle overs phase, they managed to make a few bowling apologies in the previous outing. Punjab, who have battled with consistency across their first-choice bowling attack, get a boost from Arshdeep Singh’s four-fer. Even though Kagiso Rabada and Harpreet Brar had an uncommon off day, the hosts were also able to restrict the leaking at the backend by bowling out Harshal Patel (2/30) before he died. Patel had been pricey until the penultimate game. With the exception of a century from Jos Buttler, the RR openers may not have put on much of a show, but they dominated the other two phases, scoring runs at a 9.33 average through the middle overs and a whopping 12.3 at the end. This presents the biggest obstacle for PBKS tomorrow.

When: April 13 @ 19:30, Punjab Kings vs. Rajasthan Royals, Match 27

Where: Mullanpur, Chandigarh’s Maharaja Yadavindra Singh International Cricket Stadium

What to anticipate: Pace-friendly surfaces have been noticed at the recently completed stadium. In the two matches played here, one in the day and one at night, quicks have claimed 23 wickets to spinners’ meagre four. Here, chasing has proven to be the best option, but with varying degrees of success.

Head to Head

Out of 26 encounters with PBKS, RR leads 15–11. They have also dominated Punjab this decade, winning five of the seven matches played since the 2020 Indian Premier League.

Groups Observe

Kings of Punjab

Injuries/Unavailability: During the optional pre-match training session, Liam Livingstone batted against the spinners for a significant amount of time, nearly engaging in a six-hitting competition with Jos Buttler in the parallel nets. The final decision about PBKS’s return to the starting lineup would be made closer to the game, he insisted.

Matchups & Tactics: Yashasvi Jaiswal hasn’t exactly performed well in the IPL 2024, but there are already some worrying trends. The youthful RR opener, who averages a pitiful 11.33 against left-arm pacers, has lost his wicket to them three times in five games this year. In their recent IPL duel, Arshdeep Singh of PBKS has also had a remarkable record against the opener, having removed him twice in 15 balls.

Presumptive starting XI: Jonny Bairstow, Prabsimran Singh, Sam Curran, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Shashank Singh, Ashutosh Sharma, Harpreet Brar, Harshal Patel, Kagiso Rabada, Sikandar Raza/Liam Livingstone [Singh Arshdeep for Impact]

Royals of Rajasthan

Injuries/Unavailability: We are currently awaiting word from the RR medical staff on Nandre Burger and Sandeep Sharma’s match fitness.

Strategies & Matchups: Yuzvendra Chahal, who has the upper hand over both of Punjab’s IPL openers, receiving the new ball from RR wouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Shikhar Dhawan and Jonny Bairstow have both been dismissed three times by Chahal, with the Englishman having particularly bad stats (an average of only 8.7 and strike-rate of 92.9).

Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson (C, wk), Riyan Parag, Shimron Hetmyer, Dhruv Jurel, R Ashwin, Trent Boult, Avesh Khan, Kuldeep Sen, and Yuzvendra Chahal are the likely members of the starting XI. [Keshav Maharaj/Nandre Burger, Impact sub]

Were you aware?

  • Yuzvendra Chahal needs three more wickets to make history as the first bowler in the IPL to reach 200 wickets.
  • Jos Buttler needs 65 more against PBKS to get 500 runs.
  • With a lifetime SR of 197.95, Ashutosh owns the records for the second-quick 50 in T20 history as well as the fastest by an Indian hitter (off just 11 balls).

What they expressed:

“He has an optimistic outlook. He should take wickets for us, please. He had a good start the other night. He is a wicket-taker for us and has a really positive attitude. Someone won’t always perform [as well] on the night, but I thought he began off well the night he sang for us. He delivered on the intensity, so I won’t have to worry about him. PBKS bowling coach Charl Langeveldt on Rabada’s off-field actions

“We’ve done a pretty good job of qualifying for the next round by winning at home, which is very important.” There is still a great deal of cricket left. Having saying that, though, you still need to make sure that you get the desired outcomes when playing away from home. However, I believe that with the short turnaround times and other things, it basically comes down to executing your analysis job when psychologically rested and invigorated. The beauty of it, in my opinion, is how much local talent we have on our team and how much it has been exposed to other environments. Hopefully, that information will be reliable, and fight units operating in their native environments.” – Keshav Maharaj, during RR’s protracted absence

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