In-form KKR out to breach Royals' fortress

Faulkner: Royals will find it hard to leave out Laughlin (4:14)

James Faulkner and Ajit Agarkar look ahead to Rajasthan Royals' match against Kolkata Knight Riders in Jaipur (4:14)

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So the jinx has been broken. Rajasthan Royals became the first team this season to successfully defend a total in a full, 20-over game, after racking up 217 for 4, on the back of a Sanju Samson special in Bengaluru. Royals had also previously defended a score, in a rain-shortened match against Delhi Daredevils in Jaipur. Since Royals' victory on Sunday, two other sides, including Kolkata Knight Riders, have won batting first this season. Is the trend changing?

KKR's boundary percentage of 67.67 is the best among all teams this season, while Royals' 54.14 is at the opposite end of the table. Royals are the more conservative side among the two, but boast of a nine-match winning streak at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in the IPL. Only Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians have had longer winning streaks at home. Given they have not always played their home games in Jaipur, and the fact that they have just come back from a two-year suspension, Royals' streak dates back to 2013. Still, home advantage counts for something.

The teams employ contrasting approaches on the bowling front too. While the three spinners do the heavy lifting for KKR, Royals rely on pace and use their inexperienced spinners K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal to contain runs. Which method will prove successful in Jaipur?

In the news

  • Royals' mentor Shane Warne has gone home for a short holiday, but the team is in the safe hands of two Indian domestic stalwarts in Amol Muzumdar and Sairaj Bahutule, the batting and spin bowling coach respectively.

  • Sussex quick Jofra Archer, who had been sidelined from much of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and the start of the IPL with a side strain, batted and bowled on the eve of Royals' game against RCB, but wasn't picked. It remains to be seen if he is fit and available for this clash.

The likely XIs

Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 2 D'Arcy Short, 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Rahul Tripathi, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 K Gowtham, 8 Shreyas Gopal, 9 Dhawal Kulkarni, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Ben Laughlin

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Nitish Raina, 5 Dinesh Karthik (capt & wk), 6 Andre Russell, 7 Shubman Gill, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Shivam Mavi, 11 Kuldeep Yadav

Stats that matter

  • Dinesh Karthik has faced 29 dots from overs 7 to 15 - the most by any batsman this season. He has scored 78 runs off 68 balls in the middle overs at a rate of 6.88 per over.

  • In four matches this season, Narine has figures of 7 for 82 from 15 overs, with an economy rate of 5.46, the best in the tournament so far.

  • Ben Stokes has a strike-rate of nearly 150 against pace in IPL 2018 but that drops to 57.1 against spin. He has scored only eight runs off 14 balls from spinners.

Strategy punt

There is a case for Royals to save Ben Laughlin for Russell. The Australian seamer has has bowled only four balls to Russell but has dismissed him twice while giving away seven runs in T20s. He's also been superb with his execution of yorkers so far this season.

Fantasy pick

Narine has excellent numbers against Royals' batsmen. He has dismissed Ajinkya Rahane three times in 39 balls, Buttler twice in 24 balls, and Samson twice in 26 balls, in all T20 cricket. He has also dismissed Stokes once in nine balls, while conceding only 10 runs. Narine could also swing his bat and prosper at the top, especially if Royals continue to open the bowling with Gowtham, and fetch you still more points.