Sharjah: Sanju Samson will like to continue his dream form while presence of Jos Buttler puts Rajasthan Royals on even keel with Kings XI Punjab in an IPL game which promises to be yet another six-hitting competition.
Coming into the match after morale-boosting victories, both KXIP and the Royals would look to build a winning momentum after starting the tournament as underdogs.
Rahul, touted as a future India captaincy material, plundered a record 132 not out off just 69 balls with the help of seven sixes in a much bigger ground in Dubai to lead KXIP to a resounding 97-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore. He did get reprieve twice when his opposite number Virat Kohli dropped a couple of sitters.
The 28-year-old Rahul, one of the cleanest hitters of the ball, notched up the highest score by an Indian in IPL history and he would like to continue in the same vein on a ground which has short boundaries on all sides.
The young Samson, on the other hand, made a mincemeat of the Chennai Super Kings bowlers, hitting nine sixes in his 32-ball 74 before Jofra Archer joined the party with a four-six burst in the final over in the match played at the same venue here on Tuesday.
The Royals captain Steve Smith also chipped in with a 47-ball 69 while playing his first match after concussion related issues in the United Kingdom.
Buttler, who missed the first match due to quarantine rules as he reached UAE separately with his family, is expected to open alongside Yashashvi Jaiswal while Smith will take David Miller's position in the batting order. Tom Curran and Jofra Archer will again complete the four-player overseas composition.
For KXIP, Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell would look to make amends for his low score (5) in the earlier match against RCB.
In the bowling department, Mohammed Shami and West Indian Sheldon Cottrell led the pace-bowling department quite well for KXIP while the likes of leg-spinners Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin grabbed three wickets apiece against RCB.
The Royals managed to defend their 216 run target with Archer bowling brilliantly at the death and leg spinner Rahul Tewatia (3/37 in 4 overs) inflicting top order damage.
The sore point was yet another poor show from Jaydev Unadkat, who has never been able to raise his IPL game save one odd season with Rising Pune Supergiants.
It will be interesting if Smith and Andrew McDonald decide to try out rookie Kartik Tyagi or seasoned Varun Aaron in Unadkat's place keeping his lack of pace and short boundaries in mind.
The Squads (From):
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (c), Mayank Agarwal, Sheldon Cottrell, Chris Gayle, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Shami, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Karun Nair, James Neesham, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Ishan Porel, Arshdeep Singh, Murugan Ashwin, Krishnappa Gowtham, Harpreet Brar, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh, Darshan Nalkande, Ravi Bishnoi, Simran Singh (wk), Jagadeesha Suchith, Tajinder Singh, Hardus Viljoen.
Rajasthan Royals: Steve Smith (captain), Jos Buttler, Robin Uthappa, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Manan Vohra, Kartik Tyagi, Akash Singh, Oshane Thomas, Andrew Tye, David Miller, Tom Curran, Aniruddha Joshi, Shreyas Gopal, Riyan Parag, Varun Aaron, Shashank Singh, Anuj Rawat, Mahipal Lomror, Mayank Markande.