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IPL 2018 has lost Chennai as a host venue for the remainder of the tournament due to protests on staging the matches in drought conditions. This means that the Chennai Super Kings will shift base to Pune and play the rest of their matches there. CSK’s first encounter at their new home ground will be against the Rajasthan Royals. Both teams have suffered defeats in their last match and will be keen to get back on track. The IPL table is pretty closely packed together at the moment and teams know that every match is going to be important throughout this tournament.
MS Dhoni rolled back the years and played one of the most courageous knocks ever seen in the IPL. Everyone and we mean everyone, thought he had left too much to do in the last four overs against the Kings XI as they chased down a mammoth total. Dhoni, though, showed why he is considered as the master of the chase by bringing CSK within 4 runs of a truly miraculous victory.
CSK suffered its first loss of the tournament and was unable to pull off a third heist in as many games but it brought to the fore their never say die spirit.
Apart from the euphoria around the chase, though, there were some glaring errors that need to be addressed. Dwayne Bravo has been in excellent batting form but was demoted below Ravindra Jadeja in a move that made no cricketing sense whatsoever.
Shane Watson was one of the most economical bowlers on the night but only got to bowl two out of his allotted four overs. If he was not carrying an injury then this decision also bewildered everyone watching.
Suresh Raina should be back in the next match and that will probably mean Murali Vijay being dropped from the playing eleven. Faf du Plessis is also expected to be available for selection, although, fitting him in is going to be very difficult.
Sam Billings has already played one match winning inning, Shane Watson is indispensable at the top, Bravo has won one match on his own, and Imran Tahir will be crucial to their bowling efforts. Unless an overseas player hits a really bad patch of form or gets injured, du Plessis may have to warm the bench.
CSK is a team with lots of problems at the moment. Their batting is having to be bailed out by a spectacular inning in every match but that is not something they can bank on. Their bowling is among the weakest in the competition, especially on flat tracks.
They have seven bowling options in their lineup but not one of them has been effective so far. Their only hope will be to ensure Pune offers plenty of help to their spinners and allows them to play the kind of game they are good at.
SR Watson, Ambati Rayudu, SK Raina, Sam Billings, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Deepak Chahar, Karn Sharma, SN Thakur, Imran Tahir.
After the high of beating RCB at their home ground, Rajasthan Royals were brought down to the ground by KKR in Jaipur. Now, they will travel to Pune and take on CSK.
To be honest, we think this could be the best possible time for the Rajasthan Royals to play CSK in Pune. Rajasthan has a much more settled side, some players showing good form, and the surface is going to be new for both teams in this match.
That is not to say that the Rajasthan Royals do not have any worries of their own. The biggest question mark will be over the batting position of Darcy Short at the top of the order. After three low scoring innings, Short scored 44 off 43 deliveries and was particularly slow in the power play. Does Rajasthan continue with Short at the top of the order or swap him out for another overseas player?
We personally would promote Tripathi to open the inning and slot in Jofra Archer in the playing eleven instead. Archer brings raw pace, death bowling know how, and some ability to bat to the team as well.
Rahane has resisted making a change in his playing eleven so far but surely time is running out for Short.
Some concern would also be warranted about the form of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. Stokes has struggled to get going while Buttler seems to come in too late bin most matches. The Royals need to back their best players and give them a better chance to bat more overs.
A lineup of Rahane, Tripathi, Samson, Stokes, and Buttler is pretty intimidating and should do the job on most days.
Ben Laughlin has been very good at the death for the Rajasthan Royals but he is clearly a bowler that needs some runs at his back. Given the task of picking up early wickets, Laughlin does not seem to be as effective.
Will the Royals opt to give Short another chance and swap out Laughlin for Archer? That could happen as well.
If the pitch in Pune offers some help to the spinners, which it usually does, then Gowtham and Gopal will become more handy than they have been so far. Both of them are not the highest quality of spinners going around and will need to contribute better in the games going forward.
The Royals are also struggling with many aspects of their cricket and it is only some luck and a brilliant inning from Sanju Samson that has helped them win two matches so far. Their toughest test so far will be in this match.
Ajinkya Rahane, RA Tripathi, SV Samson, BA Stokes, Jos Buttler, Heinrich Klaasen, STR Binny, K Gowtham, S Gopal, JD Unadkat, Ben Laughlin.
The team winning the toss is likely to want to bat first
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A hot day with next to no chance of rain has been forecast for match day in Pune. The pitch is going to be an unknown since this is the first match being played on it. Pune, though, has always been a surface that has helped the spinners towards the end of the match.
We have a strong feeling that this could be a win the toss and bat first pitch from the first game.
CSK has won three out of the last five matches these two sides have played against each other. There has, however, been a gap of two years since both teams participated in the IPL and things have changed around since.
We think the Rajasthan Royals are a better-balanced side with better batting strength and overseas players that are more likely to perform. Back them for the win.
Back the Rajasthan Royals to win.