More than a month later, Rajasthan Royals are meeting Kings XI Punjab on October 30 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Match No 50 of the ongoing IPL season is a battle of survival for the Royals while Punjab know a win can sustain the hope of revival for a much longer period
Desperation for RR, very significant game for KXIP
Even the table-toppers cannot afford to lose a match in the business end of the tournament, such has been the chaos in the points table. More so RR, since a defeat will bring the curtain down as their best effort can get them to only 12 points once they finish the league stage and it won’t be suffice for the play-off. Not that it’s anyway less significant for Punjab although even after defeat KXIP will remain alive mathematically but there will be too many ifs and buts for their liking.
How the wheels have turned for both teams since the last meet
Last time both teams were looking forward to registering their second win in the tournament and, after scoring 223 for 2, KXIP may have just thought of sealing the result by batting alone. And, they were not wrong until the ‘birth’ of Rahul Tewatia who single-handedly changed everything and the Royals chased the highest total in IPL history.
Contrasting opening shows
The contrasting strength and weakness of the teams with regards to their openers may once again play a critical role in the final outcome. If the Royals are yet to settle on a fine opening pair, Punjab have done the unthinkable by asking Chris Gayle to bat in the middle-order.
Pace advantage with KXIP
Punjab had struggled terribly in the death overs last season (picking only 12 wickets from 14 games) and the problem persisted in the first half of this season as well.
However, Mohammed Shami has lived up to his potential(joint second-most wickets (20) this season so far) and the young left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh and death over specialist Chris Jordan seem to have sorted out the economy rate blues which is now below 8 (7.75) than it was above 9 (9.16) in their first seven games.
The two leg-spinners, Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin have also bowled parsimoniously and have suffocated the batsmen. While Rajasthan are hugely dependent on Jofra Archer (17 wickets in 12 matches) has not solved their economy at death overs which is nearly 12 (11.51) runs per over. It is the worst among all teams in this tournament.
Rajasthan may take some consolation from the fact that in head to head encounters (11 win for RR and 9 for KXIP) they have a slight edge and also they defeated Punjab earlier but they are also aware that they are facing a completely transformed rival now.
Likely XI Kings XI Punjab: 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 KL Rahul (capt, wk), 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Mandeep Singh 7 Chris Jordan, 8 M Ashwin, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Ravi Bishnoi, 11 Arshdeep Singh
Likely XI Rajasthan Royals: 1 Ben Stokes, 2 Robin Uthappa, 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Riyan Parag, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Shreyas Gopal, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Varun Aaron/, 11 Kartik Tyagi
(Vimal Kumar is a senior sports journalist who has covered multiple cricket world cups and Rio Olympics in the last two decades. Vimal is also the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide.)Follow Moneycontrol’s full coverage of IPL 2020 here