The Rajasthan Royals started the IPL on a high, winning their first 5 games and topping the table. Let alone the media and fans, perhaps even the team management would not have ever expected it to boil down to the last match. Such has been the story for the Rajasthan Royals, who have seen a massive slump in form, winning just one out of their last 8 matches. One may experience a sense of deja-vu, given that the Royals had found themselves caught in a similar situation last season as well, and the team will be desperately hoping to pull it off this time.
The Kolkata Knight Riders, on the other hand, have been at the receiving end of many close finishes. Their 5-run loss against the Mumbai Indians on Thursday would still be haunting them, as it was a game that was completely under the control of the visitors, a game the Knights should have ideally won. With very little time to recuperate, they find themselves facing the Royals, and must put the loss against MI behind themselves, and come out all guns blazing.
Traditionally, matches at the Brabourne stadium have been high-scoring ones, and Saturday’s match should be no different. The return of Shakib-Al-Hasan should boost the KKR line-up, which has otherwise heavily relied on the bowling department. The Bangladeshi all-rounder hit a quickfire 23 off 15 and bagged 2 wickets in the match against Mumbai, and KKR would hope for some more fireworks from him. With Sunil Narine also finding some form in the nick of time, Brad Hogg missed out the last match, and it will be interesting to see how many spinners make the cut for KKR on a rather green top at the Brabourne.
Yusuf Pathan once again took KKR close to victory with a breezy knock of 52, but his wicket became the turning point of the game, and at the end it was too much to ask for from Piyush Chawla. Andre Russel, who has played exceedingly well this season, had a rare failure on that occasion, and a lot will depend on how well he can steer the innings for KKR. The duo of Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav will look to exploit any assistance the track offers to the pacers, and would like to trouble the Rajasthan top-order, which has looked solid more often than not.
Ajinkya Rahane has been extraordinary for the Rajasthan Royals. With 461 runs in 11 innings, he is the highest run-getter for Rajasthan and has provided the much needed impetus at the top of the order. It is not often that one would expect Rahane to play the lead role while opening with Shane Watson, but the India batsman has been consistently good, taking the pressure off Watson. With Steve Smith returning at the helm ahead of RR’s match against Chennai, Shane Watson would be relieved of a lot of his duties, and Rajasthan would be hoping for a match-winning performance from Watson, at a time when the team needs it the most.
The form of the young Indian batsmen Sanju Samson and Karun Nair has been a major concern for the Rajasthan Royals. The middle-order has been a bit shaky on most occasions, and it will not be a surprise if Rajasthan promote Faulkner or Chris Morris up the order in this crucial encounter. Morris, especially, has been good with both the bat and the ball, and a move up the order might just prove to be worthwhile in the end.
Rajasthan are well aware that a loss here will put an end to their hopes of qualification. KKR, too, will have only a mathematical chance if they lose against RR, and would have to pray for a lot of other things to go their way in order for them to qualify for the Playoffs. With the stakes so high, this must-win encounter promises to be a thriller, rounding off the last Super Saturday of the season.