The 25th match of IPL 2019 sees a forlorn Rajasthan Royals host the dominant Chennai Super Kings at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Thursday.

The season has been thus far pole apart for the 2 teams. Rajasthan are languishing at 7th with only a solitary victory against bottom-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore, while Chennai are roaring at the top of the league table with 10 points from 6 games. True to their form, Rajasthan Royals are coming into the fixture after a meek submission to KKR, while Chennai come in after a one-sided victory against the same side. This is the second time the two are facing off this season, with Chennai winning last time in a close-run affair that saw MS Dhoni at his sublime best, scoring a match-winning unbeaten knock of 75.

Dhoni has been one of the key batsmen for his side. With Dhoni along with the likes of Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, and Ambati Rayudu, Chennai possess some of the best Indian batting lineups. Opener Faf du Plessis has been in fine nick playing the last couple of games, and Chennai fans would hope he gets off to a good start. However, Chennai’s strength lies in their bowling. Whether it be the fantastic showing by experienced spin trio Tahir, Harbhajan and Jadeja; or the incredible discipline shown by young pacer Deepak Chahar, the CSK bowling lineup will be a formidable task for the Rajasthan batsmen.

The Royals batsmen have usually been in good form for the majority of the season, with the likes of Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson and recently Steve Smith coming to the fore. However, the last match with KKR was a disappointment as the Royals batsmen meekly turned over against a disciplined bowling side. The Jaipur crowd would hope to not see a repeat of that performance. Talking about a disciplined bowling attack, that is exactly what Rajasthan have lacked thus far, with leggie Shreyas Gopal being the main, and sometimes only, a threat in the attack. Players like Jofra Archer and particularly Ben Stokes need to stand up and make themselves counted by picking wickets against CSK. Otherwise, it might be too much of an uphill task for the Royals.

Here are 3 key player battles to watch out for:

Steve Smith vs Imran Tahir

After a sluggish start to the season coming off from a long absence from cricket, Smith came to the fore in the last match against KKR, with his unbeaten 73 being the shining light in a disappointing Royals innings that saw them struggle to score at a good pace. Rajasthan would hope that Smith continues in the same vein, but at a quicker pace to set the stage for the Royals. However, he would face an extremely difficult challenge in Imran Tahir, who has been the wrecker-in-chief for the men in yellow. Tahir’s disciplined bowing has enabled him to do his fabled wicket celebrations 9 times thus far this season, and he is 2 wickets shy of the Purple Cap. On Thursday, he would hope to dismiss Smith, and celebrate as only he can. This will be an incredibly entertaining key face-off for this match, and we can’t wait for this player battle.

Also Read: The Fantasy Guide for this match

Jos Buttler vs Deepak Chahar

What an excellent season Deepak Chahar has had thus far. The 26-year-old right-arm has bowled with pace and discipline and has scalped 8 wickets in his 6 games with an astonishing economy of 5.95. Chahar’s bowling has been key to Chennai keeping the opposition quiet at the start of the innings, and building pressure on them while taking regular wickets. He would hope to do the same thing against Jos Buttler. Buttler has been consistent with 176 runs in 5 games at an average of 35.20, which is pretty high for an opening batsman. However, he would be facing a tough task in Chahar, and this key battle would go a long way in determining the match.

MS Dhoni vs Shreyas Gopal

Dhoni has been proving in the IPL that he is not finished yet. Chennai’s leading run-scorer, Captain Cool has only been dismissed one in the IPL en route to his 156 runs. His best performance came against the Royals in their previous meeting scoring a 59-ball-73 to win it for the men in yellow in a thrilling contest that went down to the wire. Dhoni is instrumental at the back end of the innings, whether it needs to be a composed innings to take the team home, or a few boundaries to add 20-odd runs to the score. His batting against Shreyas Gopal would be a key player battle for sure in this match. Gopal has been Rajasthan’s best bet in the bowling department, with his disciplined bowling picking up 8 wickets at an economy of 6.37 and a strike rate of just 12. Gopal would hope to snare the Chennai captain too, else it might spell trouble for the Royals.

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