Whether the Kings XI Punjab’s splendid turnaround leads them to where they are headed or not, the way they have come out of the grave to place themselves in the slot of contention is a tale as inspiring as any. KXIP would be keen to extend their unstoppable run when they meet with the Rajasthan Royals on Friday at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi.
The last times these two met, the most epic battle unfolded that taught the world a thing or two about self-belief. Despite a 183-run opening run stand between Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul, which guided KXIP to a total – 223 for 2 – that was never chased in the history of the league, Steven Smith’s team’s response flummoxed Punjab courtesy of a magnificent partnership between the skipper and Sanju Samson, which was followed by one of the greatest comebacks in an individual knock (read Tewatia’s tale), for the ages to remember.
Although, plenty has changed ever since. Those were the days when Smith and Samson were scoring runs for RR, and the team was making a statement with its performances. On the other hand, KXIP was busy letting the games slip away from its reach to push itself into the abyss despite having the likes of some fine men of the shortest format of the game in their ranks. Cometh the 50th fixture of the league, the chaotic story has a new chapter as Punjab enters into the clash in search of a mind-boggling sixth consecutive win on the trot, whereas their rival Royals have the cloud of elimination hovering over their head.
The scenario for the teams stands simple. Smith’s men cannot settle for anything lesser than a win; if that be the case, the maximum they would reach would be 12 points, and given 2020’s standards, that’s the end of the road. KL Rahul’s charges, on the other hand, can tolerate a defeat, although that would mean that their qualification would then be subjected to a host of other results. Having done what they have, KXIP would certainly not want to go back into a territory where they don’t have their fate under their control.
After a topsy-turvy campaign, Royals would take heart from their victory over the topper Mumbai Indians on the back of Ben Stokes’ masterclass. However, speaking of taking heart, there are few who can take it more than KXIP, who have been on a roll, to say the least.
Pitch and conditions
The track at Abu Dhabi has behaved a lot better in the recent past. Though the decision upon winning the toss at this venue has been slightly tough, the presence of dew has motivated the captains to choose the template of chasing again. Compared to the other venues, the pitch at this venue has slowed down lesser.
Playing Combinations for KXIP vs RR
Kings XI Punjab
If lucky charms do exist, it has to be Chris Gayle for his team. KXIP is yet to lose a game ever since his inclusion, and whether lucky or not, Gayle has certainly not relied on luck but performance. Though KL Rahul is inching closer towards the 600-run mark, he has looked slightly out of sorts in the last couple of games. The question mark over Mayank Agarwal’s availability remains just as big, and in his absence, Mandeep Singh, who played a match-winning unbeaten 66 in the win against Kolkata Knight Riders, would continue as an opener.
The major reason behind KXIP’s return to success has been the discipline with the ball at both the front and the death. While Mohammed Shami has been in wickets since the start, the inclusion of Arshdeep Singh has boded extremely well for the team. The pacers have been responsibly assisted by the spinners Murugan Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi.
Probable XI- KL Rahul (C & WK), Mandeep Singh, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Murugan Ashwin, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh
For the Royals, Ben Stokes could not have come into his roaring form at a better time. His splendid century in the last game ensured that the team chased 195 without any trouble. Furthermore, after a rather cold run, Sanju Samson would be happy to be amongst the runs. That said, it is time that Steve Smith takes some responsibility with the bat to fill the remaining gaps in the order. With Stokes hitting purple, it is unlikely that Jos Buttler will get a chance at the top, and he must acclimatize at the position he is given.
The problems in the bowling unit continue for the Royals, where barring Jofra Archer, none other has been able to prove their mettle. While Archer is one of the leading wicket-takers with 17 to his name, and that too at a frugal economy, the lack of support from both pacers and spinners has often left him alone.
Probable XI- Robin Uthappa, Ben Stokes, Steve Smith (C), Sanju Samson (wk), Jos Buttler, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Ankit Rajpoot, Kartik Tyagi
KXIP vs RR Head to Head
Played- 20 | KXIP won- 9 | RR won- 11 | NR- 0
Match Timings- 7:30 PM (IST), 6:00 PM (Local).
TV– Star Sports 1, Star Sports 2, Star Sports 1 Hindi
Live Streaming– Disney + Hotstar VIP
Source: The source of this content is our cricket news platform Crictracker.
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