Openers Feel the Heat as RR and PBKS Clash on Pace-Friendly Mullanpur Ground

RR will take on PBKS on their home turf. (Source:

Both teams are coming off narrow defeats, having missed out on opportunities to secure victory in their last games. However, they’ve experienced contrasting fortunes, overall. While the Rajasthan Royals (RR) have appeared as a formidable unit, the Punjab Kings (PBKS), much like in previous seasons, have seemed out of sorts. The only similarity between the two teams lies in the performances of their openers. Shikhar Dhawan and Jos Buttler have performed reasonably well, but their opening partners, Jonny Bairstow and Yashasvi Jaiswal, have struggled to make an impact.

The focus will be on the openers, not only due to current form but also because of the nature of the Mullanpur wicket in the last game. Six wickets fell in Powerplay in the previous match at this venue, all taken by pacers. This season, pacers have claimed 85% of the wickets at this venue, although spinners have maintained a slightly better economy rate.

Under the floodlights, both teams’ openers will face a stern challenge, considering the quality pace bowlers in the PBKS and RR squads.

The Royals’ openers have struggled to perform consistently in the Powerplay overs. However, they have dominated the middle and death overs with impressive run rates of 9.33 and 12.3 respectively. This presents a significant challenge for PBKS in their home match.

PBKS’ batters have a run rate of 8.1 in the first six overs this season, which is the joint second-lowest for a team.

Although both teams face similar challenges with their opening partnerships, it’s during the middle overs that RR could potentially outshine PBKS. This is because RR have relied on the excellent form of their captain Sanju Samson and their new hero Riyan Parag. RR’s middle-order has been crucial for their success this season.

On the other hand, PBKS has struggled with their middle-order. Jitesh’s performance with the bat has been particularly underwhelming. Although Sam Curran has been decent with the ball, his batting performances have declined since the halfway mark of the season, despite scoring 63 in PBKS’ first game against DC.

Additionally, the absence of the injured Liam Livingstone has weakened PBKS’s middle-order, reducing their overall firepower. However, amidst the challenges, Shashank Singh and Ashutosh Sharma have emerged as exceptional finishers, successfully chasing down the 200-run target in Ahmedabad and narrowly missing out on replicating their performance in the subsequent game in front of the home crowd.

The team eagerly awaits Livingstone’s return to bolster their batting lineup as soon as possible.

On the other hand, RR fast bowlers have excelled in Powerplay, picking up nine wickets at an average of 24.3, the best among all teams in the tournament. However, PBKS bowlers are not far behind, averaging 26.6 runs per wicket in the powerplay, setting the stage for an intriguing battle at the beginning of the innings.

Yashasvi Jaiswal, currently out of form, will need to devise strategies to counter Arshdeep, who has proven to be a formidable opponent, dismissing the left-hander twice in just 15 balls. Facing challenges against left-arm pacers, PBKS may deploy Curran against the young RR opener. Additionally, Buttler will need to be cautious against Arshdeep. If Bairstow survives the Powerplay threat, he may encounter Yuzvendra Chahal, who has dismissed him three times in seven innings. Dhawan has also struggled against Ravichandran Ashwin. The southpaw has been dismissed four times in 14 T20 innings by the wily off-spinner.

Despite the challenges, the Royals’ batting unit has consistently performed well, with 185 being the lowest total posted while batting first. However, beyond match calculations, the 2008 winners have another concern to address. In previous editions of the IPL, they have started strongly, as they have this year, only to show a decline in performance after the mid-season. The Royals have only qualified for the playoffs twice in the last six seasons. RR would fervently hope that the defeat against GT does not mark the start of another meltdown. They will be looking to break that pattern this season.