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Rahul, Livingstone, Lewis headline six-hitters showdown

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Where should Gayle bat for Punjab Kings? (2:04)

Ian Bishop and Deep Dasgupta tackle the big questions ahead of the clash between Punjab Kings and Rajasthan Royals (2:04)

Big picture

Bowling should come with a warning label. Kids, don't try this at home. Or anywhere. You'll just get smashed. Again and again and again.

There is no mercy here. As cricket keeps shrinking (Hello, Hundred), batters keep reinventing themselves in murderous new avatars. Take Liam Livingstone for example. Eons ago, in 2017, he looked completely out of sorts. ESPNcricinfo's report of his T20I debut suggested he couldn't cope with "the step up in class". All that's changed now. Livingstone doesn't just hit the cricket ball. He rearranges it at a molecular level.

KL Rahul is similar. Once upon a time, he was Karnataka's bright new hope in first-class cricket. A young player showing both grit and class. Now he's a bulked-up, tatted-out T20 beast who is about to become the second-quickest to 3000 runs in IPL history, behind his great friend and fellow ball-disappearer Chris Gayle.

These are simply two examples of the power-hitting behemoths on show Tuesday night. Get ready for dinner and a show.

In the news

Royals lost a talisman in Jos Buttler but in Evin Lewis they may have a reasonable replacement. He comes to the IPL in top form and with an enhanced reputation. A previous weakness against spin is now all but gone - he averaged 57 against them, with a strike-rate of 138, in the recently concluded CPL - and he has also worked on mitigating the damage caused by his body falling over when facing inswing bowling.

Kings lost a bit of bowling firepower with Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith choosing not to join them for the IPL's resumption. And while that robs them of express pace - an advantage in any form of cricket - they still possess bowlers capable of causing problems. Like Nathan Ellis. Having once been frustrated with the trajectory of his career, the 26-year-old death-overs specialist took a hat-trick on T20I debut and is expected to set the IPL alight.

Likely XIs

Punjab Kings: 1 KL Rahul (capt, wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Deepak Hooda, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Shahrukh Khan, 7 Fabian Allen/Adil Rashid, 8 Ravi Bishnoi, 9 Arshdeep Singh, 10 Nathan Ellis, 11 Mohammed Shami

Rajasthan Royals: 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Sanju Samson (capt, wk), 4 Liam Livingstone, 5 Riyan Parag, 6 Shivam Dube, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Rahul Tewatia, 9 Kartik Tyagi, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Chetan Sakariya/Jaydev Unadkat

Strategy punt

  • Chris Morris may not be in South Africa's plans anymore but he remains a formidable force. He is the second-highest wicket-taker this IPL season (14) and while a huge proportion of them have come in the final overs (9), his combination of pace, bounce and hustle may be Royals' best bet to dismiss Gayle. Their T20 head-to-head reads: 58 runs in 61 balls and three dismissals.

  • Rahul is usually the man to set Kings up for big scores but he also has excellent credentials as a finisher. And given his strike-rates against Royals' potential back-end bowlers - 185 against Morris and 161 against Mustafizur Rahman - he will once again want to bat right through the innings.

Stats that matter

  • The average first-innings score over the 34 IPL matches that have taken place in Dubai is 166. Seamers have tended to thrive here, picking up 3.76 wickets an innings as opposed to just 1.64 by the spinners.

  • Kings (57) and Royals (52) are among the top-three six-hitting teams this season. Royals have been especially destructive in the death, clearing the ropes a total of 20 times, the most by any line-up in the first part of IPL 2021.

  • Livingstone is coming into the IPL having scored the most runs in the Hundred (348 in nine innings) at the best strike rate (178.46) with the most sixes (27)

  • Mustafizur is a bit of an unsung hero at Royals. His economy rate from overs 17 to 20 is 8.81, which is among the best in the IPL. It's better than Jasprit Bumrah's (8.87)

Punjab Kings 2nd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st120MA AgarwalKL Rahul
2nd6MA AgarwalAK Markram
3rd57AK MarkramN Pooran
4th0DJ HoodaAK Markram
5th0AK MarkramFA Allen