As the Rajasthan Royals chased down another big total with a fair degree of comfort on Friday night, the first reaction among the #HallaBol gang would have been one of relief.
A loss would have finished off their chances of reaching the Indian Premier League playoffs but the batting once again came to the party. At long last, RR seems to have got its batting order right.
Ben Stokes has found form at the top of the order and his positive intent means the opposition can’t take it easy in the early going. Robin Uthappa seems less confused at the top of the order and finds gaps with a fair degree of ease. Sanju Samson, after a huge mid-tournament blip in form, is doing what he does best again and Steve Smith, at No 4, provides consistency. Jos Buttler still isn’t firing on all cylinders but he’s still managed to score 293 runs at an SR of 142.92. Rahul Tewatia, Riyan Parag and Jofra Archer have all shown they can score some quick runs too.
Indeed, the feeling now seems to be that this RR batting order can chase down almost any total. In the match against Mumbai Indians, Hardik Pandya (in the break between innings) said that he was confident Mumbai had enough on board (195/5).
But then RR came and knocked the stuffing out of the MI attack thanks largely to Stokes (107 off 60) and Samson (54 off 31). With the exception of Uthappa, almost everyone has a good strike-rate in the line-up and that means they are hard to control and even harder to set a limit on.
RR's top batsmen
The problem for RR, though, remains their bowling. With the exception of Archer, no one else has been able to take wickets regularly and their economy rate is rather high too.
So it often seems like Archer is waging a lone battle to try and keep the opposition total down to a manageable level. It hasn’t always worked this season but now with the batting coming good, the fast bowler finally has some support.
In a way, maybe the wins will get the other bowlers to get their act together too. But for now, the gap is too large and the pressure on Archer must be immense. He hasn’t shirked away from the responsibility though.
Tewatia has at least managed to maintain a decent economy rate (7.16) but RR would have expected more from leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal. The biggest problem though is the two Indian seamer slots – Kartik Tyagi has shown his inexperience while Unadkat/Rajpoot/Aaron have proved to be far too expensive.
Stokes’ all-round abilities help them fill the gap a little but they still need their main bowlers to stand up and deliver.
For now, RR pretty much are a side that should be backing themselves to chase down any total. Archer is just about their only weapon in the bowling department but the batting line-up is filled with match-winners.
Their last two wins would have made the opposition aware of this too and that is when things get interesting.
As we have said in our pieces on all the qualification scenarios, “RR had the worst NRR among teams in the hunt to reach 14 points but, thanks to not taking the foot off the pedal in the run-chase against KXIP, it has improved from -0.505 to -0.377 (leapfrogging KKR’s).
“The advantage RR had (if they can see it that way) in the race for top four was that their last two matches were against direct rivals to qualify. They will still be eliminated with a defeat against KKR but a win that boosts that their NRR over KXIP or DC / RCB could see Royals sneak in to the playoffs.”
If anything, this is a time for sticking to your guns. A late surge has given RR a chance of making the playoffs and at this point, all they can do is stay true to themselves.
There are some flaws they have to live with but that’s life – RR still needs to find a way to win and perhaps with this setup, they have.