Two out-of-form teams meet in Indore on Sunday and Matt Harris is backing Rajasthan to take advantage of Punjab's vulnerable batting.
"Last year’s player of the tournament Ben Stokes has been subdued at his new franchise and in general, the Royals’ overseas roster has been disappointing but the domestic contingent also needs to improve."
Kings XI Punjab v Rajasthan Royals
Sunday, 15:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
Kings off the Pace
Kings XI remain in the play off places after a bright start to IPL 11 but two straight defeats leaves them needing to pick up points over the next seven days. Chris Gayle continues to fire - the left-hander made exactly 50 in Friday's defeat against Mumbai - and Lokesh Rahul has been in decent touch but there's been surprisingly little support elsewhere.
Aaron Finch has been out of form and was subsequently dropped but Punjab's batting looks light with the equally woeful Yuvraj Singh coming in at three. This was apparently part of a deliberate ploy to negate Mumbai's spinners by promoting left-handers but it didn't work and a rethink is needed for Sunday as too much reliance is placed on an ageing Gayle.
This game is starting to look like a 'must win' for Rajasthan who sit at the bottom of the table with three wins from eight. Jos Buttler was promoted to open in a desperate run chase against Delhi last time out and while that's not his ideal position, 67 runs from 26 balls suggests he'll remain at the top of the order on Sunday.
Last year's player of the tournament Ben Stokes has been subdued at his new franchise and in general, the Royals' overseas roster has been disappointing but the domestic contingent also needs to improve. Bowling looks particularly weak with Jaydev Unadkat too expensive both at the auction and on the pitch. Ben Laughlin was a little unfortunate to make way when Jofra Archer regained fitness and the Aussie could well come back in to the starting XI.
Home from Home
Kings XI switch to the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore for the second half of the group stages and Friday's first innings total of 174 was just a fraction above last season's average. Chasing sides tend to prevail on a surface that doesn't produce big scores on a regular basis so it should be a case of win the toss, insert and look to keep the batting side down to around 170/175.
There should be no issues with the weather other than the fact that the mercury is expected to reach an uncomfortable 40 degrees so we can expect a full 40 overs on Sunday.
Kings XI start as clear favourites at [1.78] with Rajasthan some way behind at [2.24] but for me this is a much tougher call. KXIP's batting is over-reliant on Gayle and, at 38, there is the question of whether he will even play a second game in three days. If the openers go early then the Royals can win it but do they have the bowling attack to take advantage?
I would like to see Ben Laughlin back even if it's at the expense of an overseas batter as Unadkat is underperforming and Dhawal Kulkarni looks like a luxury and I'll back this faltering attack to take those key wickets and upset the odds.
It may be wise to stake in Kings XI's top batsman market simply because there is little to choose from. Karun Nair at 5/1 and Mayank Agarwal at 4/1 have made isolated contributions but it should come down to the two openers.
I would check the team sheets before backing the favourite Chris Gayle at 5/2 while I'm betting on KL Rahul at 13/5. He's a certain starter and has been consistent since hitting the IPL's fastest 50 at the start of the tournament. My result tip relies, to an extent, on the openers departing early but Rahul as top KXIP batsman is a decent hedge.
Last year's MVP Ben Stokes has delivered one profit in the top batsman markets this year at 7/1 and while he's a little shorter now at 9/2, it's time for the left-hander to step up and score more heavily as Rajasthan's cause becomes more desperate.
Stokes to top score for the Royals is the final tip of the day in a market where your other options include the favourite D'Arcy Short at 3/1, Ajinkya Rahane at 16/5 and Sanju Samson at 10/3.
Matt Harris' IPL 2018 P/L