IPL 2019: Kolkata Knight Riders bank on Russell firepower as Rajasthan Royals come calling

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Russell in unstoppable mood. Image credit - @IPL/Twitter.

Rajasthan Royals have their task cut out against a rampant Andre Russell as they get ready to visit the Sawai Mansingh stadium for their 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) showdown with Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday.

The West Indies all-rounder has been in great form with both bat and ball throughout Kolkata’s campaign with his latest heroics coming on Friday against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

ONE-MAN SHOW

Kolkata required 66 runs for victory off the last four overs but won with five balls to spare with Russell smashing an unbeaten 48 off just 13 deliveries. It was the fourth explosive cameo down the order from the Windies man who is firing on all cylinders with sensational consistency.

Russell has already tonked a total of 22 sixes in the four games so far with his 207 runs coming at an astonishing strike-rate of nearly 269. Add in his five wickets with the ball as well and IPL 2019 might very well be renamed the ‘Dre Rus’ show.

Despite their collection of experienced campaigners, Kolkata have found themselves in trouble in all four games they have played so far before Russell’s magic has bailed them out. However, so ridiculous has been Russell’s consistency that a defeat via a super over against Delhi Capitals is the sole loss the Knight Riders have tasted all season.

It is this Andre Russell-named wall that Rajasthan must surmount when they come to the Eden Gardens on Sunday. Ajinkya Rahane and his men started off their campaign with three losses on the bounce before they finally ended their drought with a convincing win over struggling Royal Challengers Bangalore.

In contrast to Kolkata, Rajasthan have found themselves in strong positions in each of the four games they have played but have somehow conspired to win only one of them. They have shown a propensity to collapse under pressure with the way they spectacularly combusted against Kings XI Punjab in their campaign opener being the prime example.

ROYALS BANK ON BUTTLER

While it’s Russell who is key for Kolkata, it is Jos Buttler who is pivotal to Rajasthan. The England batsman single-handedly dragged the Royals to the play-offs last season with five consecutive half-centuries and how he goes in the 2019 edition might very well define where Rajasthan end up at the table.

The Royals’ two most accomplished displays in the ongoing campaign have come when Buttler has registered fifties. Former Australia skipper Steve Smith, meanwhile, it yet to truly come to the party with the right-hander still looking short of his usual lofty standards.

Buttler is the man for Rajasthan. Image - BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

Buttler is the man for Rajasthan. Image – BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

What has hampered Rajasthan greatly in the 2019 edition has been their bowling unit, or lack of it thereof. Only Jofra Archer and young leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal have been able to hold their heads high but the likes of Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni and Varun Aaron have been extremely expensive.

The lack of competent Indian pacers is coming back to bite them hard and with Russell in such terrific form in the death overs, things could get ugly for the Royals with the ball at Jaipur

TEAM NEWS

Rajasthan had to make do without the services of their star batsman Sanju Samson in the win over Bangalore due to an injury. It might just have been a precautionary step from the Royals and the top-order batsman is expected to be back for the Kolkata clash.

LIKELY XIs

Kolkata Knight Riders: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik (c and wk), Shubman Gill, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson.

Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Jos Buttler wk), Sanju Samson, Steve Smith, Rahul Tripathi, Ben Stokes, Krishnappa Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat.

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