Kings XI Punjab will return back to their home turf after a gap of ten days when they take on Rajasthan Royals today at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali. Having won two big away fixtures in Bangalore and Chennai, KXIP have got their campaign back on track and a win here will give them a spot in the top four slots on the points table. On the other hand, Rajasthan Royals, after a good start to the tournament have hit a rough patch and will be desperate for a win.
For the home side, the bowlers have clicked as a unit and on a bouncy track in Mohali, the seamers will once again play a key role in restricting the Royals’ line up to a sub 150 score. The only point of concern for the Punjab camp will be the panic the lower order showed when put under pressure against RCB that almost took the game away from them. There is no news yet on skipper Adam Gilchrist’s availability and with the injury to Ryan Harris, KXIP will once again have to dig deep into their resources.
Rahul Dravid spoke of arresting the slide yesterday failing which their campaign will come to a premature end. Rajasthan had a very good start to the tournament but in recent matches, despite having phases of dominance, haven’t been able to cross the finish line. After a horrid run of four consecutive defeats, the Royals are seventh on the points table and another defeat here will leave them needing to win all the rest of their matches to qualify for the playoffs.
The bounce and a hint of away movement in Mohali has meant that the matches here haven’t been high scoring ones, and often, it is the bowlers who have decided the final outcome of the match.
Head to head
Historically speaking, the Royals have edge as they have won five of the eight matches against the Kings.
Played -9, KXIP -3, RR -5
Players to watch out for:
Kings XI Punjab:
Mandeep Singh: The Punjab youngster has been very impressive with his aggression at the top of the order and has been consistently providing good starts to his side. With 277 runs in ten outings, he is the top run getter for KXIP this season and has been the find of the season for them.
David Hussey: The Australian Twenty20 specialist had an indifferent start to the IPL but since taking over the captaincy mantle, his touch seems to have come back. Apart from leading his side admirably in the middle, his batting towards the end of the innings has also made a big difference.
Azhar Mahmood: The experienced Pakistani all rounder was drafted into the playing XI only after the injury to Gilchrist but since then he has made his presence felt in both bowling and batting departments. While he has been consistently breaking partnerships with his medium pace, he has also played vital cameos in the death overs.
Ajinkya Rahane: The diminutive batsman is the current orange cap holder and has shown that quick runs can be accumulated even with proper cricketing shots. His inexperience cost the Royals a game against Delhi but the starts he has provided has been of tremendous help to the middle order.
Rahul Dravid: The veteran may have retired from the international arena but is still mighty effective. His strike rate is on the lower side but on a bouncy Mohali pitch, his innings will be of vital proportions.
Shane Watson: The big Aussie all rounder missed the first half of the tournament due to national duty and his return has lend tremendous balance to the Rajasthan team. The player of the tournament in the inagural IPL, Shane Watson has had a bad start this season against Delhi but it wont be surprising if he bounces back strongly against KXIP.
Kings XI Punjab have struggled at home ( 1 win in 4 matches) this season but after the two big away wins, the momentum is clearly with them and they will start as the favorites against the Royals.