With five back-to-back wins, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) will be on a high when they take on Rajasthan Royals (RR) in the 50th match of IPL 2020 at Abu Dhabi on Friday. Having had a horrendous first half, though, they cannot afford to relax.
RR go into the contest having stunned defending champions Mumbai Indians in their previous encounter. With 10 points from 12 matches, they must win their remaining two games to stay in contention to qualify for IPL 2020 playoffs.
KXIP's bowling, which has been their weak link in IPL 2020, has suddenly come good in the last two games, which makes them an even more dangerous side. On the other hand, Rajasthan’s bowling remains a concern, even after their victory over Mumbai.
As RR and KXIP meet each other in the hopes of staying alive in the IPL 2020, here are three player battles that could have a significant impact on the game.
#1. Ben Stokes vs Mohammed Shami
After an unimpressive start to his IPL 2020 campaign, Ben Stokes was at his very best against Mumbai Indians, playing a stellar role in the team’s victory over MI.
His hundred, coming against arguably the best bowling attack of Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult, was top drawer. So complete was Stokes’ batting effort, MI’s challenging target of 196 was made to look rather small.
Mohammed Shami has been KXIP's best pacer by some distance in IPL 2020. He has often delivered at the top of the innings, and has taken key wickets for KXIP. He has also improved his death overs record in recent matches, making him even more lethal.
With 20 wickets in 12 matches at a strike rate of 14, Shami is among the top wicket-takers of IPL 2020. His battle with Stokes at the start of the innings promises to be a high-voltage clash between two class performers.
#2. KL Rahul vs Jofra Archer
KXIP skipper KL Rahul is still the Orange Cap holder in IPL 2020, with 595 runs in 12 matches at a strike rate of 132.22, and an average of 59.50. However, Rahul has not been at his prolific best in the last few matches. His scores in the last three games read 15, 27 and 28.
The numbers show that Rahul has been getting starts, but what they don’t reveal is that the KXIP captain has got out by making loose strokes on a couple of occasions. Rahul cannot take his foot off the pedal as this is crunch time for KXIP.
Rahul’s biggest challenge against RR will come in the form of Jofra Archer, who has stood head and shoulders above the rest of the RR bowling attack in IPL 2020. Game after game, Archer has bowled with pace and purpose, and has been rewarded with 17 wickets in 12 matches at a strike rate of 16.82 and an economy of under seven.
Like the battle between Stokes and Shami, the clash between Rahul and Archer too will be high-quality, and has the potential to be a game-changer.
#3. Chris Gayle vs Shreyas Gopal
What a massive difference Chris Gayle has made to the KXIP outfit in IPL 2020 since coming into the playing eleven. Even at 41, he is living up to the tag of Universe Boss and has registered some stupendous batting efforts. He hit a fifty in his very first game of the season against his old franchise RCB.
Gayle was also the star performer against KKR, with an attacking 51 from only 29 balls, inclusive of five huge sixes. His runs came at a strike rate of nearly 176 as KXIP made a meal of a target of 150.
Gayle was very harsh on KKR’s spinners, spanking Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine for two sixes each. Against RR, the left-hander is likely to come up against leggie Shreyas Gopal. The talented slow bowler has not had a great IPL 2020 so far. He has nine wickets in 12 games at a strike rate of 30.66, and an economy rate of 8.10.
He played a significant part with figures of 2 for 30 in the victory against Mumbai, dismissing big names like Suryakumar Yadav and Kieron Pollard. He would be confident going into the clash against KXIP, but needs to have his repertoire in place to unsettle Gayle.Published 30 Oct 2020, 14:17 IST