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The Kings Xl Punjab will lock horns with the bottom dwellers Rajasthan Royals at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the face-off will mark the 50th match of the Indian Premier League 2020. The Friday encounter between these two sides will decide the fate of RR as a defeat would mean they are out of the contention for the play-offs. With just 7 more matches left in the league stages and three spots still for the grab, the tournament stands to be a must watch.

The KXIP who were languishing at the bottom of the table after their first seven matches, are now making a spirited run as the KL Rahul led side are unbeaten in the five matches. They are currently placed 4th in the points table and they will need to win this to make things easier for them and hope the KKR side lose their clash against the Chennai Super Kings,

Both the teams will come into this match on the back of spectacular wins. As the KL Rahul led side showcased a clinical chase against the Kolkata Knight Riders. The KKR were put into bat by the KXIP and a brillant bowling by the spirited Punjab side meant Eoin Morgan and Co. could only manage 149 on the board. 

The KXIP who have not tasted defeat in the last 4 matches prior this were not going to make a mess here and the captain along with his fellow opener Mandeep Singh gave the team the much needed start. With the ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle scoring a valuable half-century and ensured his team got over the line.

If the Punjab win was not dominating enough, the Rajasthan Royals stunned the entire cricket world by chasing down a huge total of 195 against the defending champions Mumbai Indians. The Mumbai Indians with the help of thirties from their three batsmen combined with the late surge of Hardik Pandya, who scored a mind-blowing 60 of 21 balls, notched up 195 runs on the board. 

The Rajasthan Royals lost both Robin Uthappa and Steven Smith early in their innings and looked well in course to win the match. But with the star English all- rounder Ben Stokes finding his timing, he seemed unstoppable and went on to score a brilliant century, while his team-mate Sanju Samson scored a well paced fifty, the RR managed to chase down the score of 195 with almost two overs to spare. 

The previous encounter between the two sides saw the fans being treated with one of the best run chases in the history of the sport. The coin fell in favor of the RR and they chose to chase down the score. KXlP with the help of their in-form opener KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal notched up a score of 223 on the board.

The RR did have a good start courtesy of the young Sanju Samson, who scored a fluent 85. But at 161/3 in 16 overs, the match looked done and dusted for the Royals. But the spirited RR all-rounder Rahul Tewatia had other plans as he took Sheldon Cottrell for a ride by scoring 5 sixes of the 18th over and the game was sealed in favor of the Royals.

Can the Rajasthan Royals continue to stay in the contention? Or will KXIP thrash their hopes and move step forward on their hunt for the maiden IPL title?

Head to Head

Matches Played- 20, KXIP- 8, RR- 11, Tie- 1

Team News

Kings Xl Punjab have been doing a wonderful job and the injury of Mayank Agarwal has not cost them much as his replacement Mandeep Singh has been delivering the goods. With the bowling line-up also doing a good job. The KXIP management would be more than happy to feature the same Xl that handed them a comfortable win against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

The Rajasthan side are having a shaky season, as consistency seems to be the major issue for them this season. Said that, the team did a wonderful job against the MI and the fact their key player- Ben Stokes is back to form would be a huge plus for them. After the win against the table toppers, the management and captain would not want to fiddle with the current combination.

Pitch and Conditions

The pitch in Abu Dhabi has been on the slower side but the batsmen seem to have well adjusted to the conditions as close to 400 runs were scored in the last encounter between the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals. The due was seen playing a vital role in the last game and is expected to play a role once again. Anything above the 170 mark could put the team chasing in a spot of bother.

The conditions are ideal for cricket as clear skies are expected throughout the day. The temperature is expected to be hovering in the 27-30 degree range. While the humidity is expected to be floating in the 60- 62% mark.

Probable Playing Xl

Kings Xl Punjab (KXIP): KL Rahul (c & wk), Mandeep Singh, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Murugan Ashwin, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh

Rajasthan Royals (RR): Robin Uthappa, Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson (wk), Jos Buttler, Steven Smith (c), Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Ankit Rajpoot, Kartik Tyagi

Key Battles

Mandeep Singh (KXIP) vs Jofra Archer (RR)

Mandeep Singh (KXIP) vs Jofra Archer (RR)

The Kings Xl opener who had to undergo a huge loss a few days back in form of the demise of his father was seen playing with a lot of commitment and responsibility. His acknowledgement after scoring a match-winning half- century made even the strongest shed a few drops. He is definitely a potential player, and the future is bright for him- were the words told by his captain KL Rahul. The Right-hander played a classy innings and ensured his team got over line by staying not out. He will be pumped up after his performance and definitely will be looking to win the all important match for his team.

But his task this time would not be easy as RR have one of the best bowlers currently in the tournament- Jofra Archer. The spearhead has been containing the batsmen better than any other pacer and also been picking up wickets at will. He will know the importance of Mandeep’s wicket and must be eyeing for it from the word go.

Can the spirited KXIP opener continue from where he left? Or will the star all- rounder make life tough for him?

Steven Smith (RR) vs Mohammad Shami (KXIP)

Steven Smith (RR) vs Mohammad Shami (KXIP)

The Royals skipper Steven Smith is having a rough patch as he has not been able to get going except a couple of matches. Though not in his best form he has managed to score 276 runs in the 12 matches, RR would be hoping he gets back to his prime. KXIP would know the threat he brings about once he is settled and in the mood and KL Rahul would be taking no chances with the former Australian captain.

The best bet to pick the Australian’s wicket would be the spearhead Mohammad Shami. He is one of the most experienced contenders in the team and knows very well on how to go about the proceedings. The 30- year old has picked up 20 wickets and is the joint second- highest wicket taker in this season along with Jasprit Bumrah. He definitely would have done his homework on the Australian and promises to be an exciting battle between the two.

Can the former Australian skipper return to his prime? Or will the KXIP spearhead make his stay a short one?

Prediction

After the dominating performance against the Mumbai Indians, the Royals look in really good shape. Though they have a huge task ahead of them in form of the KXIP who are undefeated in their last 5 games and they do not like stopping anytime soon. 

The conditions in Abu Dhabi look in favor of the Punjab side as the slowness of the pitch would help the spinners of KXIP who are doing a wonderful job this season. The last match saw a high scoring encounter and given the batsmen are getting used to the slowness of the pitch a score of 180 seems to be on the cards. 

The only way Royals can get past the resurgent KXIP would be if their key players- Ben Stokes and Sanju Samson can replicate the performance they showcased against the mighty Mumbai Indians. But given the form and consistency of the Punjab side, they seem to be the favorites to win this one.

Cricwizz predicts Kings Xl Punjab to win the match