Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), which is now at the eighth spot in the points table, will be under tremendous pressure to win as they set out to play against the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
After losing six of their seven games, the KL Rahul-led KXIP have only two points to their credit. This is despite having the top-two leading run-getters of this year’s IPL -- skipper Rahul (387 runs) and Mayank Agarwal (337). Barring the duo, the other KXIP batsmen have failed to click and the lack of an all-round effort has been clearly visible. Similar is the condition of the bowling attack as the unit, except Mohammad Shami and Ravi Bishnoi, has been off-colour.
However, KXIP can draw some confidence from the fact that their solitary win in the ongoing season had come against RCB. Moreover, Chris Gayle, who has warmed the bench in the previous games, is likely to get a game on Thursday as the team might opt to rest an out-of-form Maxwell. If given a game, Gayle could end up creating a carnage as the batting conditions are usually perfect in Sharjah.
RCB, which stands at the third place in the points table with 10 points in their kitty, will aim to consolidate their position in the table. The RCB top-order comprising Aaron Finch, Devdutt Padikkal, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers are in good touch this season. Similarly, their bowlers have also stepped up whenever the team needed.
The arrival of Chris Morris has further boosted the pace attack and the South African all-rounder can also prove to be handy with the bat if needed. Isuru Udana too has also been decent with the ball while Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar have executed their plans perfectly, creating trouble for the opposition batsmen.
While Kohli and Co will look to avenge their last defeat, KXIP will certainly aim to spoil the party and in such a case, another thrilling contest is likely on the cards at the batting-friendly Sharjah wicket.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (captain), AB de Villiers (wicket-keeper), Parthiv Patel, Aaron Finch, Josh Philippe, Chris Morris, Moeen Ali, Mohammed Siraj, Shahbaz Ahmed, Devdutt Padikkal, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini, Dale Steyn, Pawan Negi, Isuru Udana, Shivam Dube, Umesh Yadav, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Washington Sundar, Pavan Deshpande, Adam Zampa
Kings XI Punjab: Lokesh Rahul (Captain), 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 (wicket-keeper), Chris Gayle, Murugan Ashwin, Jagadeesha Suchith, Krishnappa Gowtham, Hardus Viljoen, Simran Singh