Jaipur: Languishing at the bottom of the table, Rajasthan Royals need nothing less than a miracle to remain in contention for the IPL Play-offs when they take on Kings XI Punjab in a do-or-die battle. Three consecutive defeats have more or less sealed their fate and for things to turn around for the Royals, every aspect of their game needs to improve and click for them.
They are taking on Punjab, placed third in the table, just a day after losing to them by six wickets in Indore, where neither the bowlers nor the batsmen could do a convincing job. Nothing has gone right for the winners of the inaugural edition of the IPL, who lost their pillar -- Australian Steven Smith -- to ball-tampering scandal.
The lackluster performance by their batsmen and bowlers have landed them in a position where they need to win all their remaining games and also pray for favourable results in order to qualify for the play-offs.
The hosts are back on their home turf, where they have recorded two of their three victories, but they need to start afresh. Three consecutive defeats, including a narrow one against Delhi Daredevils, has left them demoralised and their mentor, the legendary Shane Warne, too wore a dejected look in the dugout from where he saw the Royals miss out on half chances.
Average performance by captain Ajinkya Rahane and below-par show of English all-rounder Ben Stokes and Rahul Tripathi has hurt them badly and the hosts need all these batsmen to fire. West Indian bowler Jofra Archer, though, has been impressive and the only saving grace for them while expensive pacer Jaydev Unadkat has been a complete let-down, taking just seven wickets at a poor 9.86 economy rate.
On the other hand, the visitors are back to winning ways after an emphatic triumph over the Royals and would look to consolidate their position in the top-four. Punjab can even take the second place if they win tomorrow, provided they improve their NRR.
Though they rely heavily on good partnerships between Chris Gayle and KL Rahul the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair and Marcus Stoinis have been able to contribute handsomely. Their bowling too has the variety with old warhorse R. Ashwin, Axar Patel and the new sensation from Afghanistan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, proving more than handful for the opponent.
Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane(c), Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler, Rahul Tripathi, D Arcy Short, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat, Ankit Sharma, Anureet Singh, Shreyas Gopal, Prashant Chopra, Sudhesan Midhun, Ben Laughlin, Mahipal Lomror, Aryaman Birla, Jatin Saxena, Dushmantha Chameera, Heinrich Klaasen, Ish Sodhi.
Kings XI Punjab Ravichandran Ashwin(c), Axar Patel, Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, Lokesh Rahul, Chris Gayle, David Miller, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Manoj Tiwary, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Barinder Sran, Andrew Tye, Akshdeep Nath, Ben Dwarshuis, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar, Manzoor Dar.