Since they last met, Kings XI and the Royals have been on contrasting journeys. © BCCI
“Obviously you need to be in the crease. We’ve seen it even in the other games, everyone’s having it in their minds. But these are small things and we’ll have that in control,” replied Shreyas Gopal when asked if the batsmen will be conscious of what happened at the non-striker’s end in Rajasthan Royals’ previous meeting against Kings XI Punjab.
It’s been three weeks since R Ashwin mankaded Jos Buttler at the Sawai Mansingh stadium and pulled a rabbit out of the hat for Kings XI Punjab’s winning start to their 2019 campaign. Since then, the journeys of Kings XI and the Royals have been contrasting. The former have blown hot and cold, and have been hit by the mid-season blues to suffer three losses in their last four games. The Royals weren’t able to find their footing in the early part of the tournament, losing five out of their first six games. But they’d like to believe that they have some momentum on their side, having overcome Mumbai Indians in a nervy finish, with Buttler playing a key role in their second win.
For both teams, the form of the openers – Buttler and KL Rahul – augurs well but both sides have the same area of concern, which is the middle order. In their last two matches, despite strong contributions at the top of the order, Kings XI haven’t had the ideal finish with the bat and the dew factor made it tougher for them to defend totals. The Royals, meanwhile, aren’t helped by the fact that the likes of Steven Smith, Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Tripathi are lagging behind a bit in terms of their strike rate while Ben Stokes is yet to make a big contribution, which has put added pressure on Buttler. Rectifying these issues will be at the top of the agenda for both teams as they seek crucial points to improve their position in the points table.
The performance of the pacers too has been a bother for both these teams. Barring Jofra Archer, none of the Royals pacemen have an economy rate of less than nine. For Kings XI, Andrew Tye and Sam Curran’s expensive overs, coupled with a split webbing for Ankit Rajpoot and Hardus Viljoen being down with flu, has meant that Mohammed Shami and R Ashwin have been carrying the bulk of the bowling workload. Kings XI’s fielding has also been a let down in the last couple of games, and unless they display an improvement on that front they may end up ruing losses in close finishes.
When: Tuesday, April 16 at 8:00 PM IST
Where: PCA Stadium, Mohali
What to expect: With the dew turning out to be a key factor in most of the games so far in Mohali, teams will prefer chasing.
Kings XI Punjab: The inclusion of David Miller could boost the middle order, which has been a cause of worry for Kings XI in their last two games. Viljoen could make it to the eleven in place of Tye if he has recovered from an illness that forced him to miss the last game.
Probable XI: KL Rahul (wk), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Sarfaraz Khan, David Miller, Mandeep Singh, Sam Curran, Hardus Viljoen, R Ashwin (c), M Ashwin, Mohammed Shami
Rajasthan Royals: There is still no news on the fitness of Ben Stokes, who missed the previous game due to a hip injury. Should he continue to be unavailable, the Royals can either persist with Liam Livingstone, who made his IPL debut in the previous game, or bring in an all-round option in the form of Ashton Turner.
Probable XI: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson (wk), Steven Smith, Rahul Tripathi, Ashton Turner/Liam Livingstone, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni
What they said:
“Jofra is a different kind of a bowler, he’s really quick and one of the fastest in the world. The other bowlers, they’re bowling really well now. They had a couple of bad matches but they are bowling well. One thing is that they bowl the hardest overs of the match. In the context of powerplay and death overs, fast bowlers take majority of the load and they bowl the crucial overs. So it’s okay to go at eight and nine (an over) sometimes” – Shreyas Gopal on the expensive outings of the pacers.