The return of Jos Buttler is set to bolster the Rajasthan Royals batting order as they take on the Kings XI Punjab in Sharjah. The showdown has all the potential to be a high-scoring thriller, with big-hitting prowess in both the sides. While the Royals began their tournament with an impressive victory over the Chennai Super Kings, KXIP made a brilliant comeback after Super Over heartbreak in their opening match to beat RCB by 97 runs.
There will be eyeballs on KL Rahul and Sanju Samson - the current first-choice limited-overs wicketkeeper batsman and the backup in the same role for Indian team respectively. While Rahul made the record for most runs by a captain in an innings (132*) in the previous match against RCB, Samson's exploits against CSK was almost an exhibition on clean six-hitting strokes, as he slammed 74 off just 32 deliveries.
Rajasthan Royals will be pinning their hopes on Samson's bat to fire again. Although, it will be interesting to see how they structure their batting order with the arrival of Buttler. The English wicketkeeper-batsman opens for the national team in the shortest format, and is likely to play the same role with the Royals. This would mean Smith shifting down to number three, while Samson arrives at four.
Despite a dominant performance from the Royals, the management may have concerns over their finishing. Jofra Archer's exploits in the final over of the innings may have proved key for the side against CSK, but the trio of Robin Uthappa, Rahul Tewatia and Rahul Chahar scored a combined total of 21 runs between them.
Another sore point for Royals would be Jaydev Unadkat's below-par performance in the CSK match. He conceded 44 runs in four matches and given the KXIP attack and Sharjah's relatively shorter boundaries, the Royals might be tempted to give a run to Varun Aaron or rookie pacer Kartik Tyagi in his place.
Kings XI Punjab, meanwhile, had the finest of comebacks with an all-round performance against RCB. KL Rahul carried the bat with a fantastic century against his former franchise, hitting sixes at absolute will in the final overs of the innings.
Glenn Maxwell, however, will be aiming to break his streak of low-scores. He had scores of 1 and 5 in the first two matches and KXIP would need one of their most aggressive batsmen to step up when they take on a side full of power-packed performers, like Royals.
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (c), Mayank Agarwal, Sheldon Cottrell, Chris Gayle, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Shami, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Karun Nair, James Neesham, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Ishan Porel, Arshdeep Singh, Murugan Ashwin, Krishnappa Gowtham, Harpreet Brar, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh, Darshan Nalkande, Ravi Bishnoi, Simran Singh (wk), Jagadeesha Suchith, Tajinder Singh, Hardus Viljoen.
Rajasthan Royals: Steve Smith (captain), Jos Buttler, Robin Uthappa, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Manan Vohra, Kartik Tyagi, Akash Singh, Oshane Thomas, Andrew Tye, David Miller, Tom Curran, Aniruddha Joshi, Shreyas Gopal, Riyan Parag, Varun Aaron, Shashank Singh, Anuj Rawat, Mahipal Lomror, Mayank Markande.