The Kings XI Punjab recovered superbly – a 97-run win against the Royal Challengers Bangalore – after their Super Over heartbreak against the Delhi Capitals. Now they move to Sharjah, the smallest of the three venues, to take on the Rajasthan Royals, who made 216 at that venue earlier this week for a 16-run win over the Chennai Super Kings. We could be in for another high-scoring game on Sunday.
The Kings XI have so far held back Chris Gayle. Is there a case for them to unleash him in this game? No ground is too big for him, but in Sharjah, where even mis-hits carry over the rope, Gayle will be a big threat even though he isn’t the force he once was. The Kings XI management is happy with his form in the nets, but bringing him could mean altering their balance because both KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, the regular openers, have done exceedingly well in the first two games. Yet, it is a good selection headache to have. Nicholas Pooran may have to miss out in case Gayle comes in.
The Royals will be boosted by the return of Jos Buttler, but there is a possibility he’ll bat in the middle order. Steven Smith played anchor from the top of the innings in the first game, and might want to continue doing that alongside rookie Yashasvi Jaiswal. With Sanju Samson likely to play one-drop, Buttler could slot in at No. 4 to give the middle order some solidity, with Robin Uthappa and Riyan Parag to follow. David Miller, who was run-out without facing a ball on his debut for the Royals last week, could be the unfortunate one to miss out.
Having competed hard and won a high-scoring game at this venue should give the Royals a slight edge in this contest, but on their day, Kings XI can topple any side like they showed two nights ago against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Whatever happens, expect another 200 vs 200 contest.
In the news
Buttler is available for selection after completing his extended quarantine. That means the Royals may have to decide between David Miller and Tom Curran for one overseas spot.
The Kings XI have no injury concerns. Everyone is fit and available for selection.
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Steven Smith (capt), 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Sanju Samson, 4 Jos Buttler (wk), 5 Robin Uthappa, 6 Riyan Parag, 7 Shreyas Gopal, 8 Jodra Archer, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Rahul Tewatia, 11 Jaydev Unadkat
Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Mayank Agarwal, 4 Karun Nair, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Sarfaraz Khan, 7 Jimmy Neesham/Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 8 Ravi Bishnoi, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 M Ashwin
The Kings XI have an opportunity to surprise the Royals by fielding Gayle. Apart from the dimensions of the ground, the Royals have two legspinners – Shreyas Gopal and Rahul Tewatia – and Jaydev Unadkat, the left-arm pacer. Gayle strikes at over 200 against bowlers with these skillsets since IPL 2018. This will also give more heft to an in-form Kings XI line-up.
Jimmy Neesham didn’t bat, and bowled just two overs in the previous game, and if the top three fire, it’s unlikely he’ll get too many opportunities. While leaving him out may seem a tad harsh, strategy could dictate the inclusion of Mujeeb Ur Rahman in his place.
Stats that matter
Samson is two hits away from 100 sixes in the IPL, and Maxwell is nine away from the landmark.
Buttler needs 97 more to get to 6000 T20 runs.
Archer’s IPL best of 3 for 15 came against the Kings XI in IPL 2019.
Kings XI’s opening pair has averaged 50.8, the best among all teams, since IPL 2019.