The fortunes of the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals have gone in opposite directions this past week. While defending champions Mumbai are searching for their third win in a row, the Royals are looking to avoid a third straight defeat. But Mumbai are a team the Royals love facing; they’ve won each of their last four matches against the four-time champions.
But if the Royals need to win, they need Sanju Samson to fire like he did in their first two games, where he struck 74 and 89. Ever since the Royals have moved away from Sharjah, Samson has not reached double-digits, and the Royals would be desperate to see him break out of his rut in their second outing in Abu Dhabi. What they also need is more from their soft middle order that comprises Robin Uthappa and Riyan Parag, who have struggled to dominate bowlers with their string of low scores.
Their lower-middle order has made up for most of those disappointments, with Rahul Tewatia, Tom Curran and Jofra Archer finding form across their four games, and so one can only imagine how good their batting could be if they all performed in unison. It could also be Curran’s last match for the time being, with Ben Stokes nearing the end of his quarantine.
For Mumbai, each of their batsmen has performed across different games. Quinton de Kock, Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya had a good day out against the the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday, while Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and Kieron Pollard chipped in as well during their last few games. Add three international-quality pace bowlers in Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult and James Pattinson, and they are now one of the very few teams who seem to have their best XI in place. When Mumbai get on a roll, they are difficult to stop.
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Jos Buttler (wk), 2 Steven Smith (capt), 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Robin Uthappa, 5 Rahul Tewatia, 6 Mahipal Lomror, 7 Riyan Parag/Ankit Rajpoot, 8 Tom Curran, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Shreyas Gopal, 11 Jaydev Unadkat
Mumbai Indians: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), Rohit Sharma (capt), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 James Pattinson, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Rahul Chahar, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
The Sunrisers found success against Rohit Sharma – dismissing him for six – by getting Sandeep Sharma to bowl to him because of the Mumbai captain’s poor numbers against him. The Royals could do the same by making Ankit Rajpoot bowl up front. In the four games he has bowled to Sharma, he’s dismissed him twice. Sharma has an average of 3.50 and a strike-rate of 64 against Rajpoot.
The Royals could opt for batting stability throughout their order by splitting Buttler, Smith and Samson. And that could be by promoting Uthappa as opener which puts one of Samson or Smith at No. 3 and the other at No. 4. Having Samson at No. 4 allows fire-power at the death. With a cut-off of at least 150 runs in the IPL since 2018, Samson’s strike-rate of 228 in the death overs is second only to AB de Villiers and Rishabh Pant. Alternatively, Uthappa could be dropped for Manan Vohra or Yashasvi Jaiswal for the opener’s position.
Stats and Trivia
In the first six IPL 2020 matches in Abu Dhabi, the average first-innings score has been 168 but the average winning first-innings score is 183.
Mumbai were the best batting team in the last five overs in 2019. Their run-rate (12.90), average runs per wicket (32.30) and balls per wicket lost (15) are the best among all teams.
The Royals are the worst bowling team in the powerplay this season. They have taken two wickets in four games, have the worst economy (8.50) and also concede boundaries most often, once every 4.70 deliveries in the first six overs.
Smith has been most successful against Mumbai in the IPL. It’s the only team he has scored over 400 runs against, the only team against whom he has a strike-rate of more than 150 and has also hit the most fifties (four) against Mumbai.