Kings XI Punjab vs Rajasthan Royals: Back Rajasthan to stay in the hunt

Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes' brilliance has kept Rajasthan Royals in the hunt for a playoff slot

Rajasthan need a win in Abu Dhabi to stay in touch with the playoffs and Matt Harris expects the Royals to edge out KXIP.

"The Royals tend to rely on one big contribution to get them over the line."

Back Sanju Samson to top score for Rajasthan Royals at 4.03/1

Kings XI Punjab vs Rajasthan Royals
Friday October 30th, 14:00 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Cricket

Comeback Kings

Kings XI Punjab's run of five straight wins represents one of the biggest turnarounds in IPL history but there's no element of luck attached. Selectors have got the balance of the side just right and the tricky issue of getting the best overseas players in has finally been addressed. Chris Gayle's 51 from 29 balls gave their run chase some necessary impetus as they chased down a modest KKR total last time out. Mandeep Singh played the anchor role while KL Rahul has been able to settle after carrying the top order in the opening stages.

Chris Jordan has rediscovered his crucial touch at the death and Kings are now allowed the luxury of playing Glenn Maxwell in the hope that he will eventually fire. Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh and Ravi Bishnoi have all found form with the ball and KXIP are peaking at the perfect time.

Royals rumbled

In contrast, Rajasthan Royals' line up is far from settled and the main issues lie in the top order. The late entries of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes didn't help the cause but constant tinkering with the top four has, in part, kept Rajasthan out of the playoff slots.

The player who should probably make way is Steve Smith who has looked too pedestrian after a bright start. With the explosive David Miller in the dugout, there is an alternative but it's always a big call to drop the skipper. In short, the Royals tend to rely on one big contribution to get them over the line. Stokes, Buttler, Rahul Tewatia, Sanju Samson and Jofra Archer have all obliged in isolation but this strategy won't work every time.

Destination Abu Dhabi

We're back at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi where Ben Stokes' brilliance got Rajasthan across the line on Sunday. The Royals' total of 196 was the highest winning run chase and the biggest total made on this surface in the tournament to date.

The average first innings score on this ground is 162 and, while those numbers are affected by 84 from KKR and 125 from Chennai, it's not one of the fastest scoring tracks in the competition. Wins are evenly spread but recent victories have tended to go with the chasing side so the toss could be vital.

Punjab out in front

KXIP's run of form puts them ahead in the match betting at odds of 1.758/11 while Rajasthan trail at 2.26/5. It's a fair reflection of recent results but the markets have been upset on many occasions in this tournament as the race for playoff places remains tight.

It's hard to ignore Kings XI but, as mentioned earlier, the Royals can come through based on one or two spectacular efforts from within their ranks. As they face what is literally a must-win game, I'm looking to Sansom, Stokes, Tewatia, Buttler, Archer or anyone - it really doesn't matter - to produce that big performance.

Sansom stays strong

Sanju Samson has been a particular favourite of mine in the top batsman markets since he first burst into the IPL as a teenager. In those early days he looked a certainty to inherit MS Dhoni's international gloves but a lack of consistency has frustrated his backers.

That inconsistency has continued in this tournament but he gave great support to Stokes against Mumbai and he's due another big contribution. Samson at 4.03/1 is the pick in Rajasthan's top batsman betting while Stokes at 3.7511/4, Buttler at 4.03/1 and Smith at 4.03/1 are other likely options.

Rahul closing in on the cap

KL Rahul has been clear in the race for the Orange Cap as the tournament's leading run scorer for some time. His advantage currently stands at 124 runs over Shikhar Dhawan but is he coasting as the group stages come to a close?

It's unlikely that the cap is the skipper's main focus but Rahul is due a big score and, if odds extend to around 3.7511/4, he will offer reasonable value in Kings XI's top batsman market.

Matt Harris' IPL P/L

Staked: 21pts
Returns: 19.51pts
P/L -1.49pts

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