The Indian Premier League has a double header of action on Saturday and it begins at the Wankhede where the Punjab Kings take on the Rajasthan Royals in what is suddenly a big match for both sides as we head towards the business end of the first stage of the competition.
These two teams are part of the five-way logjam on 10 and 12 points so the winner here is going to be looking upwardly mobile with three matches left while the loser will leave themselves with plenty of work to do to make the postseason.
This has been an up and down campaign for the Punjab Kings and with four matches remaining they have five wins and five defeats. The general consensus is that eight wins is the magic number so the Kings need to find enough consistency to win three of their last four. The positive is that they go into this match off the back of their best display for a while and that gives them something to build from as they look to beat a rival for a play-off spot.
The Punjab batting has been a little too all or nothing this season but we saw it back in full working order in the last game. They have been tinkering with their side trying to find the right combination with the bat and it looks like that has finally been achieved. If they can add decent bowling on top of that then there is definitely enough talent to finish in the top four but as I’ve mentioned all season it is all about batting with brains.
What looked like it was going to be a smooth season and an easy passage into the postseason has gotten a little tougher for the Rajasthan Royals after they have suffered successive defeats. They still have six wins from their 10 outings so they are in control of their own destiny but no team wants to be chasing form at this stage of the competition. The one thing they can fall back on is the fact that when they play well they have the beating of most teams in this tournament.
The Rajasthan batting has just come off the top of its form in recent times. I wouldn’t say they were whooly reliant on Jos Buttler but he was so far clear of the rest in terms of run scoring that there was always a concern should he fail a couple of times. That is what has happened and the rest haven’t been able to make up the slack. That in turn means teams can sit on their spinners and feast off their seamers and that leads to defeats therefore they need their batting to come to the party again.
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We saw exactly what Liam Livingstone can do to teams in the previous match. He hits a monster cricket ball and he is also a competent spin bowler. He could be useful with the ball but as Punjab look to resurrect their run rate his clean hitting could be crucial.
Jos Buttler is still the leading batter in the tournament but scores of 8 and 22 in his last three innings haven’t been much help to the cause. Rajasthan will be hoping their star opener can back to scoring the big runs and playing the match defining knocks again.
This Wankhede ground hasn’t been the high scoring paradise that it usually is in this competition overall but there have still been some high scoring matches. I expect this to be another, not just because of the aggressive style of the two teams involved but also because the day matches in this competition tend to be high scoring. There have been nine day matches in this tournament with first innings scores of 177/5, 193/8, 154/7, 215/5, 199/4, 151, 156/9, 170/6 and 195/3.
The two scores in the 150s were both against the Sunrisers Hyderabad who chased those totals down with 14 and seven balls to spare. That highlights the potential for runs with the pitches carrying a little more juice in them to keep them alive in the heat. The one thing we know about the Wankhede is that the boundaries are short and the outfield is quick. We also know that Punjab Kings are going to go after the bowlers and while not quite to the same frantic levels, Rajasthan are going to do likewise so over 320.5 runs looks a good way to play this Saturday opener.
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