Ed Hawkins previews Tuesday's clash from Mohali and he expects a topsy-turvy encounter...
"After Buttler there is little to fear for Kings. Steven Smith’s form has been poor. The Royals, however, might say the same about Kings"
Kings XI Punjab v Rajasthan Royals
Tuesday 16 April 15.30
TV: live on BT Sport
Kings need a win
Kings XI suffered a rare home defeat last time out. That it came against whipping boys Royal Challengers Bangalore would have been a source of disappointment. Sorer still that it came just when they needed to be gaining momentum for a play-off push. That's two defeats in a row.
They had gone off like a rocket with Chris Gayle lashing the ball to all parts and with the RCB bowling reliably poor, they should have approached 200 instead of 173. And they never looked like defending with Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers in touch.
Concerns remain about their selection and thinking on their feet. They dropped David Miller for Nic Pooran and then didn't bat him. Just when they needed his acceleration they promoted Sam Curran to No 5. Curran, as effervescent as he is, is not a No 5.
There are also concerns about AJ Tye's form. He was powderpuff and his numbers this season compared to last - when he was top wicket-taker - suggest serious issues. Mujeeb-ur-Rahman could replace him here.
The Royals got only their second win under their belt against Mumbai Indians. It was hard-fought with no little courage.
They were staring another defeat in the face after Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma tucked into their bowlers in the first innings but they came back strongly with the ball. From 96 for none in the 11th 200 was on the cards. Jofra Archer, who is having a terrific season, took three wickets and Shreyas Gopal, also a top performer, was miserly.
In the chase, Jos Buttler was in destructive form and without his 43-ball 89 Royals would have been in trouble. They had a major wobble when he was out, losing four wickets for four runs but held on. Sloppy? Of course but beggars can't be choosers.
Interestingly, Ben Stokes was left out for Liam Livingstone. Ashton Turner, the Aussie all-rounder, may now come in after he was left out of the World Cup squad.
180 a minimum
Batting again looked easy in Mohali and 180 should be an absolute minimum considering 176 and 173 have been chased this season with ease. Kings also made light work of the 150 by Sunrisers, who made it look like a terror track. Prior to Monday's match, nine of the last ten matches have been won by the chaser and although that doesn't impact an individual game strategy, it probably informs a captain's choice at the toss.
Kings XI are 1.748/11 with Rajasthan 2.3411/8. Those odds are probably fair although we're disappointed that the market has taken such a stroing view on the hosts. It's been a rare feature of the tournament for such an inconsistent team to be so skinny so early on.
The key to the game is pretty simple. Buttler's wicket. If he goes big and fast - and he is incredibly reliable - then the Royals are in the game. If Kings are smart they will get Ravi Ashwin and Mujeeb bowling in tandem from the start.
After Buttler there is little to fear for Kings. Steven Smith's form has been poor. The Royals, however, might say the same about Kings. Only KL Rahul and Gayle will cause them concern. It would be no surprise if both sides traded as short jollies and all green should be a possibility with the Royals price a starting point.
This was what happened in the meeting earlier in the tournament. Kings and Gayle hit the accelerator before Buttler out Royals on track. A now familiar collapse saw Royals fall short after being 108 for one in pursuit of 185.
Rahul and Buttler match gong bets
Betfair Sportsbook rate KL Rahul at 11/5 for top Kings bat. That's a 31% chance. On career form he has a 32% chance. It's an edge, albeit narrow. Buttler gets a 9/4 quote for Royals honours. That's shorter than he should be on career form but in IPL it's not short enough. Considering the consistency of these two, a wager on both for man of the match couldn't be described as mug money. Rahul is the 7/1 jolly with Buttler 8s.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Trade Rajasthan from 2.35/4 to 1.42/5