Ed Hawkins previews Wednesday's IPL clash between Delhi Capitals and Rajasthan Royals as Ben Stokes looks set to open the batting...
"Is Stokes 4/1 to top score from an opening berth in T20? Probably not. He has batted there six times in his career with two wins."
Delhi Capitals v Rajasthan Royals
Wednesday October 14 15.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Delhi had their wings clipped by holders Mumbai Indians last time out but it shouldn't detract from what has been a hugely successful campaign so far from the Capitals. A play-off place would only be lost with a spectacular implosion.
There were mitigating circumstances, too. An injury to Rishabh Pant robbed them of their balance. They were forced to drop Shimron Hetmyer and bring in Australian Alex Carey and Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane is a clogger at number three.
If Pant is not fit to return we expect them to go with the same XI. Whether they go with the same batting order remains to be seen. Would it do any harm to move Stoinis up to four to give him maximum opportunity with Shreyas Iyer at five?
Possible XI Shaw, Dhawan, Rahane, Iyer, Stoinis, Carey, Axar, Ashwin, Harshal, Rabada, Nortje
Rajasthan Royals could well make a late bid for the play-offs with Ben Stokes bolstering batting and bowling options. Stokes failed in their extraordinary comeback win against Sunrisers but he opened the batting, a good sign that the Royals are thinking about how best to use resources.
The Stokes-Buttler opening axis certainly has potential, not least because it recognises the middle-order of Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia is strong. There are issues, of course. Steve Smith is not setting the tournament alight and the bowling is expensive.
Jofra Archer carries a big burden and if he has an off day they could go round the park. As discussed in our half-time team talk, the form of Shreyas Gopal is a major worry.
Probable XI Stokes, Buttler, Smith, Samson, Uthappa, Parag, Tewatia, Archer, Gopal, Unadkat, Tyagi
2020 DC 184-8 (Hetmyer 45, Archer 3-24) defended RR 138 (Tewati 38, Rabada 3-35)
2019 DC 121-5 (Pant 53*, Gopal 2-21) chased RR 115-9 (Parag 50)
DC 193-4 (Pant 78*, Gopal 2-47) chased RR 191-6 (Smith 50)
Overall RR 11 DC 10
The first-innings scores (1-2 denote match won by team batting first or second, most recent first) at Dubai read: 158-2/169-1/201-1/196-1/178-2/164-1/174-1/201-t/175-1/206-1/163-1/157-t. These scores do not include Tuesday's match. It is about this time that we expect to runscoring to get tougher as wear and tear on the square takes its toll. We can see the value in taking low-risk prices at sub 1/51.20 on the innings runs markets for a first dig score of under 140.
Royals can get noses in front
Delhi are 4/51.77 with the Royals 6/52.18. At this stage without knowing whether Pant is definitely out we can only say that the favourites are too skinny. We don't want to bet on them when one of their most important players is absent.
Despite the flaws of the Royals team, they have the potential to improve on their head-to-head record. Batting first we can see them trading the other way and it's heartening to not solely rely on a fast start from their opening pair anymore.
Is Stokes 4/1 to top score from an opening berth in T20? Probably not. He has batted there six times in his career with two wins. Of course, there's no guarantee that he will open but it seems a risky price from Sportsbook considering he did last time out. There's also the issue of Buttler's form. He is overdue a win with one success in seven. He is 13/5.
In Delhi's last game we said Pant was value for top bat honours. Our view hasn't changed. He has a good recent record against the Royals and will be no shorter than 4/1 if he plays. Money back if he doesn't.
Who will make the play-offs? This week on Cricket...Only Bettor
Ed Hawkins IPL P-L