After registering a thumping five-wicket victory against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) on Friday, Steve Smith-led Rajasthan Royals (RR) will aim to continue their momentum and clinch a must-win game against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at Dubai on Sunday. It's been a topsy-turvy ride for the Rajasthan franchise this season.
There have been times when they've dominated the opposition. However, on a few occasions, they've been outclassed and choked. In their pursuit to squeeze in the upper half and book a playoffs berth, RR need to grab two crucial points in this do-or-die game and leave it up to luck in the end.
There are currently six teams battling for a top-four finish and RR's chances will be bolstered if KXIP and SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) register defeats in their last fixture of the tournament. With six wins in 13 games, Smith's men are poised at the sixth position, tied on points with SRH, KXIP and KKR. In the tussle to make it to the knockouts, every game will be crucial for all the franchises.
The biggest positive for RR will be the current form of their opener-- Ben Stokes. In his last match, the prolific all-rounder had slammed a quick-fire half-century along with picking up two wickets, playing a prominent role in RR's victory. Sanju Samson, after a string of below-par performances, has also regained some form.
The wicketkeeper-batsman had started the tournament on an explosive note before going off the rails midway, only to come back all guns blazing against KXIP.
Skipper Smith can play according to the situation and opener Robin Uthappa can put any attack to the sword on his day. No opposition takes Jos Buttler lightly and then there is Rahul Tewatia and young Riyan Parag down the order, beefing up RR's batting. Jofra Archer has been the standout performer with the ball and he will again shoulder RR's responsibility in bowling.
Talking about KKR, their road to the playoffs looks the toughest, thanks to their abysmal net run rate. Their only chance of qualification is if they beat Royals and finish on 14 points, with none of the other contenders reaching that tally. That seems improbable, the last two successive losses badly hurting their prospects.
Rajasthan Royals: Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson, Andrew Tye, Kartik Tyagi, Steven Smith (captain), 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.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Eoin Morgan (captain), Dinesh Karthik (WK), Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, Rinku Singh, Shubman Gill, Siddhesh Lad, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Pat Cummins, Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrior, Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakravarthy, Andre Russell, Chris Green, M Siddharth, Sunil Narine, Nikhil Naik, Tom Banton, Tim Seifert.
The Match starts at 7:30 pm IST.
(With PTI Inputs)