IPL 2018 Preview: Clock ticking on Rajasthan Royals as Kings XI Punjab come calling once again

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Royals need to win all their remaining matches. Image - RR/Twitter.

Less than 48 hours after Kings XI Punjab beat Rajasthan Royals by six wickets at Indore in the IPL, the two teams will meet once again on Tuesday at the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur.

Languishing at the bottom of the table, the Royals have entered the ‘deathzone’ where the next defeat will be the final nail in the coffin when it comes to their chances of making the playoffs.

Kings XI, on the other hand, have returned to winning ways after two successive defeats against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians.

REVENGE THE MINIMUM FOR ROYALS

With nothing less than a victory enough for Ajinkya Rahane’s men on Tuesday, they will need to avenge their loss on Sunday at any cost. Ever since their stunning win over Mumbai Indians, the Royals have slumped to three defeats on the bounce in an alarming slide.

They have previously banked on their formidable record at fortress Jaipur where they have won 24 out of their 33 games before this season. This year, they have won two and lost as many on their home ground. The Royals will need to reclaim their fortress if they are to mount a playoff challenge since three of their remaining five games are in Jaipur.

PLAYERS IN-FOCUS

KL Rahul is in the form of his life and played a remarkable innings of 84 (54) to leads Kings XI to victory on Sunday. His partnership with Chris Gayle has done the bulk of the scoring for Ravichandran Ashwin’s men but such has been Rahul’s showing that he has even started to overshadow the explosive Jamaican.

Rahul is in the middle of a purple patch. Image - IPL/Twitter.

Rahul is in the middle of a purple patch. Image – IPL/Twitter.

He will be the key once again on Tuesday for a Kings XI batting line-up which has been exposed at times when the openers have failed on the rare occasions.

For Rajasthan, Rahane needs to start leading from the front with the bat, given his captaincy is starting to come under the microscope. The skipper started the campaign in decent knick but has since gone off the boil and his struggles have meant that the Royals have been deprived of a good start in most of their defeats.

LIKELY LINE-UPS

Rajasthan Royals: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Heinrich Klaasen, Jos Buttler (wk), Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Rahul Tripathi, K Gowtham, Jofra Archer, K Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaydev Unadkat.

Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (wk), Chris Gayle, Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal, Axar Patel, Marcus Stoinis, Manoj Tiwary, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Ankit Rajpoot, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Andrew Tye.

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IPL 2018: Ben Stokes and the other biggest overseas flops so far

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Stokes has been one of the biggest disappointments. Image: IPL/Twitter.

The 2018 edition of the IPL is well past its half-way mark with the league table shaping up nicely. This IPL has been like no other with almost every second game going right down to the wire.

There have been countless breathtaking performances from both Indian and overseas players as the race for the playoffs enters a crucial stage. While many players have grabbed eyeballs by punching above their weight, there have been some who have simply failed to justify their high price tags.

Here, we take a look at five overseas players who have been the biggest duds so far this year.

D’ARCY SHORT (RAJASTHAN ROYALS)

The Australian batsman came into the IPL on the back of burgeoning reputation in T20 cricket which saw him break the Big Bash League (BBL) record for the most runs scored in a single edition.

It has not gone to plan for Short in the IPL who has woefully been exposed by spin, with 111 runs in six innings a poor return given that 88 of them came in two knocks.

Short's vulnerability against spin has been horribly exposed.

Short’s vulnerability against spin has been horribly exposed.

AARON FINCH (KINGS XI PUNJAB)

The Australian limited-overs stalwart came into the IPL after just having recently tied the knot but it has been no honeymoon.

He started off with two ducks and a return of 24 runs in five innings has seen Finch displaced from the playing XI. The Aussie’s struggles are the all the more baffling given that he was in the middle of a fine purple patch before the start of the competition.

Finch has simply not arrived. Image - IPL/Twitter.

Finch has simply not arrived. Image: IPL/Twitter.

KIERON POLLARD (MUMBAI INDIANS)

The Caribbean all-rounder has been a stalwart for Mumbai over the years, but he’s been nothing more than a liability this season.

He has scored only 68 runs in six innings while his bowling has been deemed surplus to requirements by skipper Rohit Sharma. This has seen Pollard’s run of 33 consecutive games for Mumbai come to an end with Ben Cutting replacing him in the line-up.

Pollard has been a liability for Mumbai.

Pollard has been a liability for Mumbai.

GLENN MAXWELL (DELHI DAREDEVILS)

The third Aussie in the list, Maxwell has had a miserable time in Delhi. As frustrating a batsman as he might be, Maxwell has just not done any justice to his talents with some shocking dismissals.

Bar one knock of 47, he has looked at sea in the IPL. The Australian has chipped in with five wickets with the ball but has only managed 133 runs in nine innings with the bat.

Maxwell has cut a frustrating figure in the middle.

Maxwell has cut a frustrating figure in the middle.

BEN STOKES (RAJASTHAN ROYALS)

The most expensive overseas recruit has failed to deliver the goods with both bat and ball. The English all-rounder has looked a shadow of his former self having scored just 155 runs in eight innings while picking up just two wickets with the ball.

Stokes‘ flop show coupled with Short’s has been the biggest reason for Royal’s abysmal showing. He has not bowled his quota of four overs even once.

Stokes has been the biggest flop. image - RR/Twitter.

Stokes has been the biggest flop. Image: RR/Twitter.

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IPL 2018: KL Rahul's impressive half-century secures Kings XI victory

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Rahul's fine half-century steered Punjab to a win. image - IPL/Twitter.

Despite Rajasthan Royals putting up a spirited fight, Kings XI Punjab eased to a six-wicket victory in their IPL clash at Indore on Sunday.

Having been set a target of just 153, Ravichandran Ashwin’s men crossed the finish line with more than a over to spare.

Here, we look at the key talking points.

BUTTLER FIRES ONCE AGAIN

Jos Buttler had played a sensational knock of 67 (26) against the Delhi Daredevils and still ended up on the losing side. He carried on in the same fashion on Sunday despite the Royals losing both openers early. The Englishman was his usual inventive self as he mixed the conventional with the unexpected to fetch terrific results.

He formed a stirring partnership for the third-wicket with Sanju Samson as the two batsmen mitigated the initial damage with some style. He lost Samson and then Ben Stokes at the other end before completing a second half-century on the bounce.

MUJEEB SPINS ROYALS INTO A TANGLE

While all three of Kings XI’s spinners were impressive, Afghan teenager Mujeeb ur Rahman was the clear standout with an impressive three-wicket haul. The 17-year-old accounted for three of Rajasthan’s biggest guns in Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer as the visitors completely lost their way after 10 overs.

He got Buttler with one that moved away after pitching before castling Archer’s stumps in the next ball with a delivery that came. Finished with excellent figures of 3-27.

KL RAHUL STEERS PUNJAB TO WIN AFTER ROYALS HUSTLE

Though their total was well below par, Royals’ bowlers put up a fight with the early wickets of Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair and Axar Patel. With Kings XI at 87/4, the Royals were very much in the match but Rahul played one of his slowest but finest fifties in the IPL to take his side home.

The opener started on fire but then tailored his game to the situation as wickets started falling at the other end. In Marcus Stoinis, he found an able partner and once he crossed the 50-run mark, he unleashed a flurry of big shots to finish the game in style in the end.

BRIEF SCORES

Rajasthan Royals: 152/9

Jos Buttler 51 (39), Mujeeb ur Rahman 3-27

Kings XI Punjab: 155/4 in 18.4 overs

KL Rahul 84no (54)

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