Five wins in five games, the latest being a hammering of the mighty Chennai Super Kings. Rajasthan Royals are unstoppable at the moment. Their favoured template – restrict the opposition to a reasonable total and chase it down with a solid top order – has been working superbly for them. The only time they have batted first this season, they have defended quite comfortably, against their next opponents: Kings XI Punjab.
Shane Watson’s availability has strengthened them further. While the likes of Watson and Steven Smith will always be assets, the performances of their Indian players have also helped Royals achieve this run. In addition to Ajinkya Rahane’s solidity, Pravin Tambe, Dhawal Kulkarni and Stuart Binny have been frugal with the ball while young Deepak Hooda has won a game with the bat.
Kings XI Punjab’s overseas as well as domestic players are yet to show consistency, which reflects in three losses from four matches. Apart from George Bailey’s batting and Sandeep Sharma’s bowling, the rest have not stood out. The bowling has been competitive, but it is the big names in that middle order that need to fire.
Watch out for…
When these sides met in Pune ten days ago, James Faulkner turned 75 for 5 into 162 for 7 with 46 off 33. He then took out Glenn Maxwell, Bailey and Mitchell Johnson in four overs for only 26 runs. Faulkner has not really been needed with the bat after that but has been expensive with the ball overall. He has the knack of picking the big wicket, as he did when he bowled a rampaging Dwayne Smith against Super Kings.
M Vijay has been in superb touch for a while now, and that has showed in some of the shots he has played. Some of his cover drives have been effortless and gorgeous, but all he has to show are 91 runs from four innings. With the hit-or-miss nature of Virender Sehwag’s batting at the other end, Vijay will have to carry on from his starts.
Stats and trivia
- Ajinkya Rahane is one hit away from reaching 200 fours in the IPL. Shane Watson is one short of 100 sixes
- Sandeep Sharma’s economy-rate of 5.37 is the best so far this season. Stuart Binny is next with 5.71
- Royals have won seven out of ten games in Ahmedabad
“It is great to be able to come and take over with the team in such a good place. Steven Smith does an incredible job as a leader. He is tactically incredibly good. He did a fantastic job in the first four games and I am very lucky to be able to have him in and around the squad.”
“Our batting has been a letdown so far in the tournament. The top batsmen are just not getting enough runs. That has been putting the team in a tight spot.”
Kings XI Punjab coach