IPL 2022 Qualifier 1, GT vs RR: Can Rajasthan Royals surpass impressive Gujarat Titans to enter their first IPL final since 2008?

Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals will face-off in the IPL 2022 Qualifier 1 at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata on Tuesday, May 24.

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Rajasthan Royals haven’t played an IPL final since the inaugural edition triumph in 2008.

In their first-ever IPL campaign, Hardik Pandya’s Gujarat Titans emerged as the standout performers in the league stage, topping the charts with 10 wins out of 14. They now have a chance to romp through straight to the final to be played at their home ground Ahmedabad.

The feature of their success has been a well-rounded bowling unit, led by the ever-reliant Mohammed Shami and Rashid Khan on the pace and spin front respectively. Lockie Ferguson and Alzarri Joseph have sizzled with their pace, with young R Sai KIshore and Yash Dayal having added great value to the XI.

Over the course of the season, GT have shown the ability to win games from virtually impossible situations with supreme finishing skills with the bat, be it David Miller’s masterclass against the Chennai Super Kings, or Rahul Tewatia’s back-to-back sixes to ground the Punjab Kings. Those successful tight finishes could lend them plenty of confidence in their upcoming crunch fixtures.

The Rajasthan Royals have endured an impressive consistent run for the first time since their 2008 triumph, and are one step away from progressing into their second final. Jos Buttler and Yuzvendra Chahal have been the torchbearers with the bat and ball respectively, with Shimron Hetmyer, Trent Boult, and Ravichandran Ashwin playing their parts.

With Yashasvi Jaiswal too, making an impact at the top, and Ashwin unleashing his batting prowess, RR appear to be a solidly balanced outfit, led by the supremely talented Sanju Samson.

Recent form and the overall balance puts RR as favourites, but GT’s ability to challenge the best of opponents and the presence of X-factors Hardik and Rashid in their ranks make them a tough team to get past.

Probable GT vs RR Playing XIs

Gujarat Titans: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shubman Gill, Matthew Wade, Hardik Pandya (c), David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore, Lockie Ferguson, Yash Dayal, Mohammed Shami

Rajasthan Royals: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson (c & wk), Devdutt Padikkal, Shimron Hetmyer, Riyan Parag, Ravichandran Ashwin, Trent Boult, Prasidh Krishna, Yuzvendra Chahal, Obed McCoy

GT vs RR Pitch report and venue details

It will be the first game to be played at the Eden Gardens this season, so a fresh pitch could offer true pace and bounce. Chasing might be the preferred option for captains, more so, with chances of rain and scattered thunderstorms in the evening. On Saturday, it rained to an extent to damage the press box. However, a BCCI source confirmed that there’s nothing much to worry and the game will proceed as scheduled.

The winner will be decided via a Super Over in case no play is possible. If the rain doesn’t permit that too, the Group standings will determine the teams’ further progression, in which case, GT will be through to the final.

Teams batting first have won 57.14% of games at the Eden Gardens in the last three years, with pacers accounting for 63.79% of wickets in the period.

Three key questions for Qualifier 1

Can Jos Buttler bounce back to his best right at the business end?

With 491 runs from his first seven outings, including three hundreds, Buttler threatened to challenge and perhaps even surpass Virat Kohli’s record tally of 973 runs in the 2016 edition. However, a drastic dip in form, which has seen him register scores of 7, 2 and 2 in his most recent outings, might be a worrying sign for RR. Buttler might seek confidence from the swashbuckling 24-ball 54, he smashed when the teams had faced off in the group stage.

Will GT back young Sai Sudharsan over out-of-form Matthew Wade?

In his first IPL season since 2011, Matthew Wade hasn’t quite been able to put up a performance of note, with just 114 runs from eight outings. With Wridhhiman Saha making the keeper’s and the opener’s slot his own, Wade was recently moved to No.3, after Vijay Shankar and Sai Sudharsan were tried out earlier in the competition. The latter has aggregated 146 runs at 36.25, which could go in his favour.

Lockie Ferguson or Alzarri Joseph or both?

GT fielded with a strong-pace attack earlier in the season with each of Shami, Ferguson, Joseph in the XI. With surfaces progressively slowing down, they acquired the services of R Sai Kishore’s accurate left-arm spin to pair with Rashid, while adding Wade in their top-three. Both Joseph and Ferguson have bowled with searing pace, but that has also aided the batters in run-scoring. On a pace-friendly Eden Gardens surface, GT might also consider making room for both, with Sai Sudarsan replacing Wade at No.3.

GT vs RR key matchups

Jos Buttler vs Rashid Khan

It’s been quite a one-sided match-up between the two modern-day T20 stalwarts, with the wrist-spinner bossing it with four dismissals from 30 balls while conceding just 18 runs. GT might consider bringing on Rashid inside the first six overs to get rid of the most destructive opponent batter.

David Miller vs Yuzvendra Chahal

Another battle dominated by the bowler, with Miller seemingly adopting the boom-or-bust approach against the leggie, with 35 runs off the 23 balls faced while being dismissed thrice. RR would possibly deploy Ashwin and Chahal from either ends against Miller, who is an uncertain starter against spin.