PBKS opener Shikhar Dhawan scored an excellent fifty in the last game.

The Punjab Kings (PBKS) will face the Rajasthan Royals (RR) in game 52 of the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday in the first clash of the double-header. Punjab have performed below expectations in IPL 2022 and are seventh in the points table with five wins and as many defeats. Rajasthan are at number three, but they too have registered two losses in recent games. Out of 10 matches, they have won six and lost four. PBKS will go in with some confidence, having defeated the Gujarat Titans (GT) by eight wickets in their last match. RR had a poor match against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). They managed only 152 batting first and ended up being thumped by seven wickets. Here are five player battles in PBKS vs RR clash.

1. Shikhar Dhawan vs Trent Boult: PBKS opener Shikhar Dhawan scored an excellent fifty in the last game. He has had a few bizarre dismissals this season. However, overall he has been in a wonderful rhythm. When Dhawan gets the team off to a good start, more often than not they end up on the winning side. He is solid like a rock even in the T20 format. RR will have to get rid of him early to gain the upper hand in the contest. Trent Boult has not been the same since he returned from injury. But with things getting tight, he will be expected to lift his game. Can he produce a snorter against Dhawan early on?

2. Jos Buttler vs Sandeep Sharma: Jos Buttler has also been a one-man army with the bat for RR in IPL 2022. He struggled in the last match and his early dismissal resulted in the team’s worst fears coming true. Although it’s not an ideal situation, RR will be keen for Buttler to come good as many times as he can. If he gets going, he will set things up for his side. Sandeep Sharma, apart from one bad over, has been exceptional with his economy for PBKS. Against Gujarat, he gave away only 17 runs in his four overs. His job will be to stifle Buttler. If he does that, either he or the other bowlers could end up being rewarded.

3. Bhanuka Rajapaksa vs Yuzvendra Chahal: Bhanuka Rajapaksa’s return to the playing XI has given some much-needed solidity to the batting. In the last game as well, he eased his way to 40 off 28 balls. What Rajapaksa is doing with his knocks is taking the pressure off the other batters like Dhawan. His role should remain the same – to attack. Yuzvendra Chahal has had a couple of underwhelming performances recently. The fact that RR’s batting has struggled hasn’t helped his cause. However, Chahal will be keen to have an impact on the match. Rajapaksa will take him on. How will the leggie respond?

4. Shimron Hetmyer vs Kagiso Rabada: This could be a key battle at the death. Barring one game, Shimron Hetmyer has been superb in the end overs for RR. He has found the middle of the bat and has slammed some wonderful sixes. He will be expected to do the same if he is out in the middle against PBKS. But the death overs will be handled by Kagiso Rabada and Arshdeep Singh. While Arshdeep has been keeping this tight, Rabada has been getting wickets although he has gone for a few runs as well. Expect a closely-contested tussle.

5. Liam Livingstone vs Prasidh Krishna: Liam Livingstone has been in spectacular big-hitting form for PBKS. In the last match, he came in and clobbered Mohammed Shami for three sixes and two fours to end with 30* off 10. Livingstone has displayed his full hitting range this season. Prasidh Krishna has done well for RR both at the start and at the end. He has worked on getting his yorkers right. He will attempt the same against Livingstone, knowing fully well that if he gets it wrong, he can go the distance.

–Renin Wilben Albert

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