Dubai: Their campaign back on track with a hat-trick of wins, Kings XI Punjab will take on another resurgent team— Sunrisers Hyderabad— in Dubai on Saturday in a must-win IPL game for the two well-matched sides.
Both KXIP and SRH are on the same pedestal, having garnered eight points apiece after 10 games, but the Hyderabad outfit is a rung ahead in the eight-team standings, on the fifth spot by virtue of a better net run rate.
And both the teams need to win their remaining four games to guarantee their place in the play-offs.
It has been a terrific turnaround especially for KXIP after a slow start to the tournament.
After the initial hiccups, KXIP got its campaign back on track with three consecutive wins — over mighty Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore and the KL Rahul-led side would be hoping to carry the winning momentum forward to break into top four.
While KXIP's batting is in the safe hands of skipper Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran, the shaky form of Glenn Maxwell remains a concern.
It has been an erratic season for KXIP so far despite having the tournament's top two run-getters in openers Rahul (540) and Mayank Agarwal (398) in its ranks.
But the successful return of Gayle has been a welcome relief for KXIP as it reduced the burden on the shoulders of its star openers, especially allowing Rahul to play more freely.
Jimmy Neesham's inclusion has given some depth to KXIP's batting as well bowling unit led by the experienced Mohammed Shami.
SRH too find itself in similar position and needs to win its remaining four matches to seal a play-off berth.
The side managed to keep itself in the play-off hunt with a confidence-boosting eight-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals on Thursday night after three consecutive defeats.
And the David Warner-led side can't slip a bit from hereon if it wishes to stay alive in the tournament.
The positive for SRH is that despite Warner and Jonny Bairstow departing early in the 155-run chase against RR in their last match, young Manish Pandey (83) and Vijay Shankar (52) rose to the occasion and shared an unbeaten 140-run partnership to secure a comfortable win.
Jason Holder's inclusion has added firepower to SRH's bowling attack as the West Indian picked up three wickets for 33 runs against RR.
But it's high time that SRH's young guns —Priyam Garg, Abdul Samad and T Natarajan— own up some responsibility.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner (C), Jonny Bairstow, Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Shreevats Goswami, Virat Singh, Priyam Garg, Wriddhiman Saha, Abdul Samad, Vijay Shankar, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Jason Holder, Abhishek Sharma, B Sandeep, Sanjay Yadav, Fabian Allen, Prithvi Raj Yarra, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem, Siddharth Kaul, Billy Stanlake, T Natarajan, Basil Thampi.
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (C), Harpreet Brar, Ishan Porel, Mandeep Singh, James Neesham, Tajinder Singh, Chris Jordan, Karun Nair, Deepak Hooda, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Glenn Maxwell, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Sarfaraz Khan, Sheldon Cottrell, Mayank Agarwal, Mohammed Shami, Darshan Nalkande, Nicholas Pooran, Chris Gayle, Murugan Ashwin, Jagadeesha Suchith, Krishnappa Gowtham, Hardus Viljoen, Simran Singh.
Match starts at 7.30 pm.
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Rahane, who averages 19 in 11 Test matches this year, seemed under visible pressure as he reasoned that even a "30, 40 or 50" from a specialist top-order batter would be an acceptable contribution provided the team wins.
The major names to be released are out of form all-rounder Hardik Pandya and dashing keeper batter Ishan Kishan
As everybody starts regaining their breath and making sense of the reality that lies ahead, the time seems ripe to delve into a deeper analysis of where these IPL teams floundered and the decisions they got right.