Surging Royals the team to beat


 

Yet again, Rajasthan Royals are doing the early running in a season, with three wins out of three. The challenge for them has been to sustain that momentum towards the end of a long tournament, but for now, they are the team to beat. So far, they’ve won the crunch moments that decide games, something they have often let slip in the past.

They also let Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson counter-punch a century stand after having Mumbai Indians in trouble, but their chase flowed so smoothly that their death bowling did not cost them in the end. With captain Shane Watson expected to play their next game – if not this one – after recovering from a hip injury, Royals’ batting will be further strengthened.

Their opponents are Sunrisers Hyderabad, who themselves hit back with a commanding chase against Royal Challengers Bangalore after being outclassed by Brendon McCullum and MS Dhoni in Chennai.

Both teams have never played in Visakhapatnam and the side that bats first will have to take a few overs to judge the nature of the pitch. “The pitch will be very good for batting. It has a little bit of grass and there will be good bounce as well,” curator Naga Mallaiah said.

Some rain is forecast in the port city around noon but the evening is expected to be clear.

Watch out for…

World Cup winner Steven Smith has carried his form from the Australian summer to the Indian, and his unbeaten 79 off 53 deliveries carried Royals home against Mumbai Indians. Smith’s taking apart of Lasith Malinga in the decisive 19th over was authoritative. He has been wasted down the order in the past but the Royals stand-in captain is enjoying the responsibility in the top order.

KL Rahul‘s unbeaten 44 against Royal Challengers was only his second score of 40 or more in the IPL, where his strike-rate is still under 110. This has been his breakthrough season, with a Test hundred in Australia, a triple in the Ranji Trophy followed by a big century in the Ranji final. Confidence from such a run can easily transcend formats, and Rahul showed signs of achieving that against Royal Challengers.

Stats and trivia

  • Only two IPL games have been played previously in Visakhapatnam, back in 2012
  • Royals have a 3-2 head-to-head record against Sunrisers
  • Among active IPL franchises, Sunrisers have the lowest team batting strike-rate – 117

Quotes

“I think he is on par with AB de Villiers at the moment and Virat Kohli when he is at his best. It is incredible to see him just continue to pile on the runs in every format. It looks like it’s not going to end and let’s hope it doesn’t for quite a while.”
Rajasthan Royals captain Shane Watson on Steven Smith

“Trent Boult has been in fantastic form. Look at how he bowled in the World Cup. We feel Trent is just ahead of Dale (Steyn). We will definitely use Dale in the tournament. At the moment Trent is going fantastic so Dale just misses out.”
Sunrisers Hyderabad captain David Warner

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