After three consecutive defeats, Rajasthan will be desperate for a positive result when they face Delhi in Sharjah on Friday. Despite being low on confidence, they can take heart from the fact that the two wins that they do have this season came at Sharjah – a ground that’s proved to be conducive to Rajasthan’s strengths.

Delhi, on the other hand, find themselves at the opposite end of the form spectrum, having lost just one of their five matches so far. Currently in second spot in the standings on net run rate, they will know that a win against Rajasthan can propel them to the top of the points table.

The head-to-head between these two teams, though, is pretty even and suggests that we might be in for a tight contest. Rajasthan have won 11 of the 20 games between them, while Delhi claimed victory in nine.

High time for Rajasthan to give Varun Aaron his opportunity

Yet to play a game for Rajasthan this season, the match against Delhi could be the perfect game for Varun Aaron to be given his shot. Over the years, the Indian speedster has put in solid displays against Delhi and that could play a factor in Rajasthan’s think tank when they decide their playing XI for Friday. He has taken seven wickets against Delhi – the second-best by him against any team – and they are also the only team against whom Aaron has an economy of less than 7 (6.80).

He also has a good strike rate against the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer, making it imperative that he gets his opportunity to impress at the expense of an opposition he’s enjoyed success over in the past. Add to that, Ankit Rajpoot’s disappointing season so far, which has seen him concede 120 runs from 11 overs in three matches and Aaron’s inclusion for the clash against Delhi quickly becomes a no-brainer.  

Sanju Samson primed to get the better of Delhi’s bowlers

Whether or not Sanju Samson missing out with the bat is the main reason for Rajasthan’s losses is up for debate but his failure to launch at the top of the order has undoubtedly played a role in the team’s three defeats. Samson will be happy that he will be back in Sharjah after smashing 74 and 85 in his last two innings at the venue.

He will want to pick up from where he left off the last time he was in Sharjah and will fancy his chances of doing the same against Delhi’s bowlers, against whom he’s enjoyed quite a lot of success. The likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Marcus Stoinis, Axar Patel and Mohit Sharma have collectively dismissed him on just four occasions from a total of 20 innings against them. His strike rate of 128.57 and 163.63 against Ashwin and Stoinis in the Indian T20 League tells its own story.

Players Ravi Ashwin Marcus Stoinis Axar Patel Mohit Sharma
Runs Scored 45 22 31 18
Strike Rate 128.57 163.63 88.57 95.65
Dismissed 1 1 1 1

*Sanju Samson against Delhi’s bowlers

Players to watch:

Rajasthan – Steve Smith

The Rajasthan skipper is an indispensable presence at the top of the order and chances are that the team usually wins when Steve Smith fires. He began the tournament looking in fine nick, scoring 69 and 50 in good time to set up back-to-back wins for his team. However, he’s failed to reach double digits in any of his last three innings and needs to turn things around soon if Rajasthan want to rediscover their early season form.

Delhi – Kagiso Rabada

South African pacer Kagiso Rabada has been in menacing form this season and currently leads the Purple Cap leaderboard for most wickets with 12 scalps from just five matches. He’s already on course to surpass his tally of 25 wickets from last season and can be expected to disturb the furniture against Rajasthan. His average of 12.50 and economy rate of 7.50 is also very easy on the eye.

Stats to watch out for:

108: Runs required by Steve Smith to score 1000 runs for Rajasthan

626: Runs scored by Robin Uthappa against Delhi, fourth-highest by a player against them

14: Wickets taken by Jaydev Unadkat against Delhi, joint-most against an opponent in the Indian T20 League

485: Runs scored by Shikhar Dhawan in the Indian T20 League against Rajasthan, fifth-most by a batsman in tournament history

5: Fifty-plus scores by Shikhar Dhawan against Rajasthan in the Indian T20 League, second-most by a player against them in tournament history

Writer’s pick:

Although the momentum will be on Delhi’s side, Rajasthan are due a win and will be confident in their ability to get the job done, especially in Sharjah. With quality batsmen and a world-class bowler like Jofra Archer in the team, Rajasthan are likely to snap their three-match winless run and return to winning ways in what should be a close encounter.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Xavier Galina