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Justin Langer may want to tune in to the IPL - if he hasn't already - to see how Steven Smith and David Warner go. Both have blown hot and blown cold so far, but Warner's form seems to be coming back after two back-to-back half-centuries. These have mirrored the Sunrisers Hyderabad's swing in fortunes as they look to make their way up the mid-table, having won three out of six games.

But Smith's Rajasthan Royals have lost four in a row now and their campaign is quickly slipping. Rahul Tewatia's heroics seems so long ago - they have now gone two weeks without a win; have seen their batting line-up shuffle and every game has opened up new wounds. They don't have a settled opening combination, Sanju Samson's hit a trough, Smith is hoicking and slogging his way in search of runs and a way out of trouble, and Mahipal Lomror in the top five seems one spot too high. They need some magic very quick or their season could derail even before going into the second half.

Do the Royals continue to keep faith in young Yashasvi Jaiswal, who seems short on confidence? Or do they turn to Robin Uthappa's experience as an opener, a position he has had most success in? The only positive given the short turnaround is the fact that they conceded less than 200 in Sharjah in the last game. It's the same venue where they smashed 226 in a record chase earlier, and the bowling performance is something to work with.

The Sunrisers are seeing things come together after a wayward beginning. The Warner-Bairstow combine is firing again, Kane Williamson is finishing off innings, Rashid Khan continues to do what he does so well, and their Indian youngsters, like Priyam Garg, are taking outstanding catches and effecting brilliant run-outs if they miss out with the bat. Can Manish Pandey find his hitting range? That will make them even more dangerous. As things stand, there's little doubt over which camp is the more settled one.

In the news


Hello, Ben Stokes. The England allrounder has served his six-day quarantine after having arrived some way into the season from New Zealand. He trained with the team on match eve and is expected to come into the XI straightaway. This will not only shore up the Royals middle order but also give Smith an extra bowling option. Stokes' presence could just free up Smith to play the way he prefers, as the sheet anchor. Also, given the way the line-up looks, Andrew Tye will likely go out.

Likely XIs

Rajasthan Royals: 1 Jos Buttler (wk), 2 Robin Uthappa/Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Sanju Samson, Steven Smith (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Mahipal Lomror, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Shreyas Gopal, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Varun Aaron, 11 Kartik Tyagi

Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Priyam Garg, 6 Abdul Samad, 7 Abhishek Sharma, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 T Natarajan, 10 Khaleel Ahmed, 11 Sandeep Sharma/Basil Thampi

Strategy punts


  • Yes, the Sunrisers have a competent Indian pace attack, but is it worth bringing Rashid Khan in during the powerplay to unsettle Jos Buttler? The numbers seem to suggest so. In the IPL since 2018, Buttler's numbers off Khan read: eight balls, four runs, four dismissals. Two of those have been bowled to the wrong'un that Khan extracts bounce off.

  • Smith saw first-hand how Warner struggled and was out to Jofra Archer in each of the three ODIs between England and Australia prior to the IPL. Archer also got him in two of the T20Is. Now, with the Royals' campaign in disarray, Smith has a chance of attacking Warner with Archer again. Get him to bowl with the new ball, attack his body with the short ball at 145kph. How exciting!

Stats that matter


  • The Sunrisers have lost the least number of wickets - four - in the powerplay this season. In comparison, the Royals have lost 11, the most.

  • Nos. 4 to 7 are a big grey area for the Royals. Their middle-order batsmen have averaged 14 balls per dismissal, which is the worst among all teams this season. The corresponding number for the Delhi Capitals is 29.8 and the Mumbai Indians 42.7. Partly, this is also because the Royals haven't had a proper opening combination, whereas Mumbai and the Capitals haven't had the need to make any changes at the top.

  • Samson made a century the last time he faced Khan & Co in IPL 2019. He wouldn't mind making half those runs on Sunday to give the Royals a much-needed lift.

  • Archer's economy of 6.9 in the powerplay is the best among bowlers who have delivered at least five overs in this period. The injured Bhuvneshwar Kumar comes second with an economy of 7.00.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo