KXIP defeated RR by 6 wickets on Sunday    AFP
KXIP defeated RR by 6 wickets on May 6 (Sunday) AFP

The Match 40 of VIVO IPL 2018 will see Rajasthan Royals (RR) host Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in their reverse fixture, at Sawai Man Singh stadium, Jaipur, only after 2 days since their clash at Indore. With 9 matches done and dusted, RR are in a must-win situation for all their remaining games to qualify for playoffs. They fought hard in defence of 152, at Indore, but KXIP opener’s KL Rahul (84 not out) kept them at bay. They would need more from their batting order to stand a chance against KXIP bowlers. They usually dominate at home; can they deliver again?

The last face-off

Put into bat, RR didn’t get the best of starts versus KXIP. D’Arcy Short and Ajinkya Rahane departed early, whereas Ben Stokes’s poor run continued. This time he fell to a stunning catch. Jos Buttler (51) was the only batsman who looked to dominate. He found some support in Sanju Samson (28), while the finishing acts came from Rahul Tripathi and Shreyas Gopal. 153 was never going to be a challenge for KXIP. Rahul and Chris Gayle have been in top form, but RR were determined.

RR bowlers didn’t go haywire with their line and lengths, and pushed the game till the death overs. While they got rid of four of KXIP batsmen, they had no answer to Rahul’s sheer brilliance. His composed, calculative and highly-impressive 84* ensured another win for his side. Ashwin accepted, in the post-match conference, that KXIP camp were a little worried seeing other teams gain momentum during their 7-day break, but are relieved with their latest triumph. In addition, he credited his bowlers for setting up each victory in the ongoing season.

Rahane, on the other hand, blamed lack of application from the top batsmen, including himself, for the loss. He was impressed with RR bowlers’ efforts, but they certainly need much more to stay alive in the competition. Will they dent KXIP’s journey at their fortress; home conditions?

KXIP Likely XI: KL Rahul (wk), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Manoj Tiwary, Karun Nair, Akshar Patel, Marcus Stoinis, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Andrew Tye, Ankit Rajpoot

RR Likely XI: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Rahul Tripathi, Heinrich Klaseen, Krishnappa Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat

Predictions: In head-to-head records, RR are 9-7 ahead. Will they beat third-ranked and in-form KXIP? Remember, they play their best at home conditions. A must-win clash, backed by local support, should spark some energy in their struggling campaign. But, current form and KXIP’s depth in squad puts them ahead on paper.