It will be Virat Kohli vs Steve Smith in match number 33 of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 at Dubai, as the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) take on the Rajasthan Royals (RR) in the first game of the double-header on Saturday. While RCB have impressed in the tournament with five wins from eight matches, they faltered against Kings XI Punjab on the back of some dodgy decision making.
If we look at Royals’ season so far, they have had a rather forgettable time. Smith’s men are languishing towards the bottom of the points table, with just three wins and five losses from eight matches. In their previous contest, they went down to Delhi Capitals by 13 runs, slipping to yet another disappointing defeat.
While RCB will be keen to get back to winning ways, RR must find a way to get past them to keep their hopes of progressing further alive. With RCB and RR set to have a go at each other, here’s a look at three player battles that could impact the contest.
#1. AB de Villiers vs Jofra Archer
On paper, the tussle between AB de Villiers and Jofra Archer promises to be an enticing one. The South African legend has played some special knocks in IPL 2020, none better than the spectacular 73 not out from 33 against Kolkata Knight Riders, a knock featuring six monster hits over the fence.
However, de Villiers was shockingly demoted down the order in the last game, and RCB ended up being stunned by KXIP. De Villiers would hope the team allows him to play at his usual position so that he can make the desired impact.
De Villiers has proved to be at his very best in the end overs, which is when he is likely to come across Jofra Archer. Even as RR have struggled to make an impact in IPL 2020, Archer has been brilliant, picking up key wickets and keeping the batsmen on the back-foot with his pace.
In de Villiers, though, Archer will find his match. The South African legend can take on extreme pace, and has the ability to come up trumps in the contest. Archer could be the one under pressure here.
#2. Rahul Tewatia vs Yuzvendra Chahal
RR all-rounder Rahul Tewatia has been among the franchise’s few bright spots in the batting department. Two of RR's three wins would not have been possible without Tewatia’s heroics.
While his half-century against KXIP was bizarre for the manner in which the innings panned out, Tewatia’s knock against SRH was a brilliantly calculated one. He smartly took on leggie Rashid Khan and won that battle. RR will be hopeful of a few more solid knocks from their off-beat all-rounder.
After getting the better of Rashid, Tewatia could come up against another in-form leggie Yuzvendra Chahal in the match against RCB. While Chahal had a rare off-day against KXIP, he has been spectacular otherwise in the tournament.
The experienced spinner has so far claimed 11 wickets in eight matches at a strike rate of 16.36 and an economy of under 8. On most occasions that the team has needed him to deliver, Chahal has come up with the goods. It will be a cat and mouse contest if Chahal and Tewatia come face to face.
#3. Virat Kohli vs Shreyas Gopal
There is a bit of history here. RR leggie Shreyas Gopal got the better of Virat Kohli (and de Villiers as well) in IPL 2019, one of them as part of the hat-trick he picked up in the edition last year. Gopal had a fantastic IPL season last year, and was one of top performers with the ball, picking up 20 wickets at a strike rate of 14.40.
This year, though, Gopal has been far from his best, managing only five wickets from eight matches at a strike rate of 36. Gopal will need to raise his game to lift RR.
Kohli has definitely struggled against Gopal in the past. Not only was he dismissed by the RR leggie on both occasions last year, but also failed to pick up the spinner’s variations, looking at sea a number of times.
The RCB skipper, though, is in great form at present, and this is the perfect time for him to show Gopal who is the boss. Kohli, so far, has notched up 304 runs from eight games at a strike rate of 126.66. He will have the edge over Gopal, but he needs to ensure that his ego doesn’t get the better of him in the contest.