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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

IPL 2018: Jos Buttler needs support at Rajasthan Royals against Chennai Super Kings

Must-win game for Royals against Dhoni's team who are second in league table

Jos Buttler did the heavy lifting for Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab, but his teammates have to step up on Friday. Altaf Qadri / AP Photo
Jos Buttler did the heavy lifting for Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab, but his teammates have to step up on Friday. Altaf Qadri / AP Photo

Rajasthan Royals face an uphill battle in their quest to beat Chennai Super Kings during their Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter on Friday. The home team have struggled with the bat in recent games even as their opponents have had few problems in this department.

Rajasthan squeaked past Kings XI Punjab for a win on Tuesday on the back of some excellent bowling that limited Punjab's chase of a target (159) that was presumably gettable. The Royals did benefit from Jos Buttler's form as the England wicketkeeper scored 82 and was ably supported by another wicketkeeper-batsman, India's Sanju Samson (22).

But the 2008 champions desperately need a win to keep their play-off hopes alive - they are third from bottom on eight points. And with Mumbai Indians, on the same points, getting a little momentum from their last two wins, Rajasthan must get their act together. That includes captain Ajinkya Rahane, whose place in the line-up must be in question because of his inability to score quick runs in recent times, as well as all-rounder Ben Stokes.

It will be a task made more difficult by the fact the Jaipur pitch is dry and will aid spinners such as Ravindra Jadeja, who bowled brilliantly against Royal Challengers Bangalore last week and has gained much-needed confidence near the business end of the tournament.

Nonetheless, Rajasthan's batsmen have no option but to rise to the challenge against a Chennai side who are second in the IPL table, on 14 points.

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Delhi Daredevils' Rishabh Pant has been in excellent form in the IPL this season. Altaf Qadri / AP Photo
Delhi Daredevils' Rishabh Pant has been in excellent form in the IPL this season. Altaf Qadri / AP Photo

Saturday's double-header

Rishabh Pant will once again be the danger man for Delhi Daredevils as they face Royal Challengers Bangalore at Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday.

The wicketkeeper-batsman scored 128 runs off just 63 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad, albeit in a losing effort to the table-toppers, thereby sending a message to the Indian selectors that would effectively have read: "You made a mistake by not picking me for the England tour."

The 20-year-old left-hander has represented his country in four Twenty20 internationals but was ignored for the summer series in Old Blighty. His immediate response was to blast 15 fours and seven sixes to let the wise men of Indian cricket know that should an unfortunate injury problem arise in India's squad, they know whom to select as a back-up player.

But so cramped is the IPL fixture list, usually, that it leaves players with little scope to cast their thoughts beyond the here and now. It is why Pant will be thinking about how to keep his form going against a Bangalore bowling attack that has leaked runs aplenty, especially in the death overs.

How he tackles the pace of Umesh Yadav, who has been the best bowler of the competition this term, will be fascinating in the context of the game. After all, these are two of the worst teams in the league in 2018. Needless to say, it will be fun to watch as well.

The game between Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders should be an interesting one, too, given that both sides are in contention for the play-offs but have seen their form dip a little recently. Punjab are on 12 points and Kolkata on 10.

But they will be looking to get over their recent defeats - Punjab to Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata to Mumbai Indians - and maintain a healthy gap with late surging sides such as Mumbai.

This game should be a cracker.