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The 54th game of the Indian Premier League will play a vital role in deciding the playoff contenders for IPL 2020. The final phase of the group stages has seen some shocking results and all the teams except the Chennai Super Kings who were fixed competitors in the playoffs for all the seasons they have been a part of.

Every game is now looked upon as a do-or-die one and Rajasthan Royals would hope that they keep up with the kind of performances they have been putting in their last two games. With back-to-back triumphs, Rajasthan are still alive and capable of ruining other team’s chances of making it to the playoffs.

A loss here would end the journey for Steve Smith and Co. However, the last two games have witnessed the actual Ben Stokes people know and the all-rounder has finally settled in his new batting position.

Sanju Samson is back too, scoring some crucial runs for the team while Jos Buttler has been more or less in form this season. With the English wicket-keeper coming at number 6, Rajasthan now boasts a depth in their batting and the only thing the franchise would want to put an end to is the bowlers’ over-dependency on Jofra Archer.

Kolkata Knight Riders have not been like a complete team in this edition of the tournament. Andre Russell is out and has struggled while the middle-order has been a huge concern for the two-time champions. The team has never been consistent this season and a good game has always followed multiple bizarre performances.

They have been relying on their opener Shubman Gill who has looked like a ray of hope for the team. However, his shot selection has been completely off at times. Nitish Rana and Eoin Morgan have contributed to the scores as well but again, consistency is key, that Kolkata do not possess at the moment.

The young bowling attack has been much brighter with the likes of Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson, and Pat Cummins. Considering how Rajasthan have turned out in the last couple of games, do Kolkata stand a chance? Or will Stokes devastate Kolkata’s playoff dreams with his strokes again?

Head to head

Matches: 23, Kolkata: 12, Rajasthan: 10, N/R: 1

Team News

Consecutive losses have done some critical damage to Kolkata’s spine although the fact that they are still in the race shows that it would take only one game for the Knight Riders to gain all the lost momentum. Kolkata will not look to shuffle with their squad. However, Andre Russell may find himself in the XI again, if fit.  

Nitish Rana did not start the competition on a good note but promoting him as an opener has unlocked a new version of the left-hander. Two 80+ scores mean Rana can certainly cause damage upfront. The team depends on him and Shubman Gill a lot apart from the occasionally firing middle-order consisting of the skipper Morgan and Dinesh Karthik, who looked decent in the game against Chennai.

Being a virtual knockout game for the Royals, Steve Smith would not opt for any changes unless there’s a casualty. As things stand, the same XI that featured against Punjab will be back, trying to keep moving forward with the same momentum.

A lot of eyes will be on Stokes to see if he could prove his haters wrong again. There is absolutely no doubt in the fact that the England all-rounder has been one of the most reliable players in the world lately. However, promoting him as an opener had several eyebrows raised but his 150+ runs in his last two games have shown that he can bat anywhere.

Pitch and Conditions

The game is scheduled to be played in Dubai and the weather is anticipated to be troublemaking for the players. Anything around or above 30 degrees is expected and everyone on the ground will be tested.

The initial stages of the tournament saw the Dubai International Cricket Stadium helped majorly to the teams batting first. However, the dew factor has now started to play some role in the game, thus making the decision tricky for the captains. A score around 200 would keep the team batting first into the game pretty much.

Probable Playing XI

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR): Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Sunil Narine/Andre Russell, Rahul Tripathi, Dinesh Karthik (WK), Eoin Morgan (C), Rinku Singh/Kuldeep Yadav, Pat Cummins, Lockie Ferguson, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Varun Chakravarthy.

Rajasthan Royals (RR): Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson (WK), Steve Smith (C), Robin Uthappa, Riyan Parag, Jos Buttler, Rahul Tewatia, Shreyas Gopal, Jofra Archer, Kartik Tyagi, Varun Aaron/Jaydev Unadkat.

Key Battles

Nitish Rana (KKR) vs Jofra Archer (RR)

Nitish Rana (KKR) vs Jofra Archer (RR)  ipl
Nitish Rana (KKR) vs Jofra Archer (RR)

Jofra Archer has been if not the best then definitely one of the best bowlers in the tournament. He has barely been expensive and has been Rajasthan’s leading man in the bowling department. His raw pace and lengths have troubled almost every batsman and the next one to be under his radar is Nitish Rana.

Rana is a brilliant hitter and his innovations in the middle of the game suit him very well too. However, this season has not been how he must have wanted it to be. His promotion up the order has worked for the Knight Riders and performances have started to pour. It is only a matter of time and we’ll know how well he faces the English pacer.

Varun Chakravarthy (KKR) vs Ben Stokes (RR)

Varun Chakravarthy (KKR) vs Ben Stokes (RR)  ipl
Varun Chakravarthy (KKR) vs Ben Stokes (RR)

Mr.Architect has been the perfect example of how one should perform when he is trusted. Chakravarthy had a slow start to the tournament but the skipper’s backing and help have made him one of the standouts in this edition of the IPL.

He will be against the in-form Ben Stokes who has been ruthless with the bat recently. With a spot in the playoffs on the line, it would be interesting to see who comes on top.

Prediction

Looking at the past performances, Rajasthan looks to be the ideal frontrunner in the game. Kolkata, however, have been one of the most unpredictable teams in the tournament. They have performed proving everyone wrong whenever they were written off and this could eventually be the game where Kolkata rise to glory again.

The game, however, will be a tight one. Both the teams bat deep and have a decent bowling attack. What will separate them is if they can bat with ease without choking under pressure. The bowlers will be tested if and whether they can bowl at hard lengths when the team needs them too.

Cricwizz predicts Kolkata to win the game.