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Rajasthan Royals search for winning mantra to hold on to second spot

A fifth straight defeat for RR in the back-end of the league stage could leave them outside the top two

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit

Match details

Rajasthan Royals (second) vs Kolkata Knight Riders (first)
Guwahati, 1930 IST (1400 GMT)

Big picture - A dress rehearsal of the IPL final?

A week or two ago that question would have held more credence because of how KKR and RR had made the top two spots their own, that too with RR holding the top spot for a while.
And then came Sunrisers Hyderabad to cast the shadows of doubt over RR's campaign. With a slender one-run final-ball win, SRH put the brakes on RR's four-match winning streak and also sparked off their four-match losing streak which RR haven't managed to halt yet. And now they run into table-toppers KKR, who have won four on the trot themselves barring the washout against Gujarat Titans, in search of the elusive win that will confirm their second spot no matter what happens between RCB vs CSK on Saturday and SRH vs PBKS in the afternoon game on Sunday.
RR had the winning mantra firmly in their hands for the first eight games out of nine, a pattern not new for them anymore. Last year they won five of their first eight before losing four of their remaining six to lose out on a playoff spot, and the year before that they had won six of their first eight and lost half of their remaining six to lose the top spot.
A win in their final league match against KKR will break that pattern, the losing streak and do wonders for their own confidence if they want to play the first qualifier instead of the eliminator.
KKR are riding high after their string of wins; so high that winning the title from here shouldn't surprise anyone, and that success may play a role in them potentially losing their mentor Gautam Gambhir to the Indian cricket team. It's been a week since KKR sealed their ticket for the first qualifier, ample time to think about their replacement at the top for Phil Salt and come up with a plan for Sunil Narine's off day, with bat or ball.

Form guide

Rajasthan Royals LLLLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Kolkata Knight Riders WWWWL

Previous meeting

What will boost RR's confidence is that they had snatched victory from KKR with a turnaround win in their previous fixture a month ago, which had stunned the Kolkata crowd. What will not boost RR's confidence is that that victory was scripted single-handedly by Jos Buttler, who has left for the UK to prep for the T20 World Cup.

Team news and impact player strategy

Rajasthan Royals
Tom Kohler-Cadmore will take Buttler's place at the top, like he did in their last game against Punjab Kings, in which they had subbed out Dhruv Jurel for Donovan Ferreira after they had slipped to 102 for 6. That may not be the case again on Sunday because Hetmyer had missed out that day but he is fit for Sunday and RR will be forced to change their combination. If it turns out to be a run-fest, RR may also want to think about bringing in a sixth bowling option against the power-packed KKR line-up.
Probable XII: 1 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 2 Tom Kohler-Cadmore, 3 Sanju Samson (capt & wk), 4 Riyan Parag, 5 Dhruv Jurel, 6 Shimron Hetmyer/Rovman Powell, 7 R Ashwin, 8 Trent Boult, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Sandeep Sharma, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal, 12 Nandre Burger/Donovan Fereira/Keshav Maharaj
Kolkata Knight Riders
Salt is likely to be replaced by Rahmanullah Gurbaz as the opener, as was being expected for the washout match against GT. Their impact bowler coming in for a batter like Venkatesh Iyer could be Vaibhav Arora or Suyash Sharma, depending on whether the pitch favours more pace or turn.
Likely XII: 1 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Nitish Rana, 4 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 5 Venkatesh Iyer, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Rinku Singh, 8 Ramandeep Singh, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Varun Chakravarthy, 11 Harshit Rana, 12 Vaibhav Arora/Suyash Sharma

In the spotlight - Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Rahmanullah Gurbaz

All eyes will be on the two replacement openers.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore already made his IPL debut against PBKS, albeit on a track he wouldn't have wanted to stay far away from to end up with a 23-ball 18. He is a destructive hitter, particularly down the ground and RR won't mind some of those, especially when the runs have dried up a little from Yashasvi Jaiswal. Kohler-Cadmore has made a name for himself in the Lanka Premier League, the PSL, the BBL, the Abu Dhabi T10, and the Hundred, obviously, and some fine contributions in crunch games for RR will add a lot more weight to that list.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz, the hard-hitting Afghanistan opener will also likely get a game before the crucial playoffs. Just 22, he has the firepower KKR need at the top to complement Sunil Narine. His recent T20 form doesn't inspire much confidence - 105 runs in his last six innings - and neither does his IPL record from last season - 227 runs from 11 innings while averaging 20.63 and striking at just 133.52. Gurbaz may have a sterner test waiting for him, compared to Kohler-Cadmore, with the challenge of excelling against Trent Boult, Yuzvendra Chahal, R Ashwin and others.

Stats that matter

  • Samson has a contrasting record against the KKR spinners, with a more watchful approach against Narine. He has scored 66 runs off 82 balls with three wickets against Narine but smashed 39 off 23 without any dismissals against Varun Chakravarthy.
  • Powell, similarly, has contrasting records against his compatriot Andre Russell and T&T spinner Narine. Powell has been dismissed six times by Narine for 51 runs off 73 balls, but attacked Russell for 23 off just 12 balls and no dismissals.
  • Shimron Hetmyer has faced just seven balls from Chakravarthy in T20s and dismissed in two of those, while scoring six runs.
  • Narine has a terrific record against the RR spinners: 94 off 39 against Ashwin and 49 off 20 while facing Chahal.
  • Narine is just four sixes away from the total of 100 in the IPL. Samson needs three more sixes to reach 300 sixes in T20s.
  • Nitish Rana boasts of a strong record against Ashwin: 108 off 58 balls with no dismissals yet.
  • Pitch and conditions

    The Barsapara Stadium in Guwahati saw its first game of this IPL earlier this week when RR lost to PBKS after stumbling to 145 for 9. It had hosted three matches last IPL, and the average first-innings score since then is just 180. The temperature will range from 24 degrees to 31 degrees Celsius with lots of humidity and some rain and scattered thunderstorms expected in the evening.


    "We've batted first and won against two sides and chased and won as well. It's just a case of doing your job well. It's easy to say we should do this or that [after winning the toss]."
    Rajasthan Royals director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara isn't too worried about their record batting first or second

    Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo