A rampaging Kings XI Punjab would look to extend their exceptional run and inch closer to a play-offs berth while Rajasthan Royals would be desperate to stay alive in the tournament when the two sides clash in an IPL match in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
It has been a dramatic turnaround for the K.L. Rahul-led side after a string a losses earlier in the tournament.
They have managed to weave together five consecutive wins against the top four sides in the tournament, infusing life into their campaign. They are in fourth position with 12 points from as many games, while the Royals have slumped to the penultimate spot with 10 points having suffered seven defeats from 12 outings.
It’s a mad scramble for the play-offs. With Mumbai Indians all but through, six teams are in the hunt for the remaining three spots.
The Royals can’t afford to slip up, if they lose on Friday they will be out of the reckoning while a defeat for Punjab will dent their chances for a top-four finish.
They would expect their skipper Rahul, the leading run-scorer of the tournament, to fire in the crucial game after three underwhelming performances with the bat.
The addition of Chris Gayle has done wonders for the team’s confidence.
It is to be seen if Mayank Agarwal, who missed two games with a bruised knee, returns to the side. In his absence, Mandeep Singh revelled in the role of an opener with a match-winning unbeaten 66 in the win against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Punjab’s bowling, which has been their weakest link throughout the tournament, has been exceptional in their recent wins, choking the opposition for runs.
The Royals will also be high on confidence after their morale boosting win over table toppers Mumbai and would be desperate to keep the winning momentum going.
The biggest positive for the Royals is Ben Stokes roaring back to form after rusty displays in previous five outings. The English all-rounder, who has been elevated to the role of opener, smashed an unbeaten 107 to help seal a seven-wicket win over Mumbai earlier this week.
Sanju Samson is also back among runs, while Jos Buttler has looked erratic. That skipper Steve Smith is in the middle of a lean patch will augur well for KXIP.
The Jofra Archer-led bowling attack has looked ordinary. The Barbados-born English pacer, who is having a stellar individual season with 17 wickets from 12 matches with an economy of 6.71, has done most of the heavy lifting with the ball without adequate support from the rest of the bowlers.
Match starts at 7.30pm IST.
Kings XI Punjab: K.L. Rahul (C), Harpreet Brar, Ishan Porel, Mandeep Singh, James Neesham, Tajinder Singh, Chris Jordan, Karun Nair, Deepak Hooda, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Glenn Maxwell, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Sarfaraz Khan, Sheldon Cottrell, Mayank Agarwal, Mohammed Shami, Darshan Nalkande, Nicholas Pooran, Chris Gayle, Murugan Ashwin, Jagadeesha Suchith, Krishnappa Gowtham, Hardus Viljoen and Simran Singh.
Rajasthan Royals: Steven Smith (C), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson, Andrew Tye, Kartik Tyagi, Ankit Rajpoot, Shreyas Gopal, Rahul Tewatia, Jaydev Unadkat, Mayank Markande, Mahipal Lomror, Oshane Thomas, Riyan Parag, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Anuj Rawat, Akash Singh, David Miller, Manan Vohra, Shashank Singh, Varun Aaron, Tom Curran, Robin Uthappa, Aniruddha Joshi, Jofra Archer.