It’s one last knock on the door of destiny for Rajasthan Royals as we move ahead to our final league stage battle, against Kolkata Knight Riders on Thursday. After a heavy loss against defending champions Mumbai Indians at Sharjah, RR’s playoffs hopes took a big hit and is now hanging by a thread. But, Sanju Samson and Co are ready to embark on the final challenge at the same venue to test the rigour of fate. To put it simply, we need to beat the Knight Riders by a huge margin to make up for our NRR, and then hope MI lose to SRH by a significant margin as well.
Our previous meeting with KKR this season gives us a shot of confidence ahead of the game. The last time we locked horns with Eoin Morgan’s team, we emerged victorious with skipper Sanju Samson (42) producing an unbeaten partnership with David Miller (24) to finish the chase with ease. That was after our pacers - Chris Morris with 4/23 and Mustafizur with an economical 1/22 - restricted KKR to 113/9 in the first innings.
Overall H2H Record: Played - 23, RR - 11, KKR- 12
Form Guide against KKR: WLLWL
Overall Form Guide: LWLLL
KKR have a slight advantage over us having won 5 out of the last 7 matches since 2018. However, with Sharjah producing sluggish wickets in IPL 2021, the conditions prove to be the equaliser, making it any team’s game on the day. Teams have opted to chase in 6 of the 7 matches there so far, and have won 5 of them, hence winning the toss might be instrumental in this case especially given that we lost the match against MI after we were asked to bat first.
Sanju Samson, with 483 runs in 13 matches so far, is 45 runs behind Punjab Kings captain KL Rahul in reclaiming the Orange Cap. He is also only 17 runs away from completing 500 runs in an IPL season for the first time – a great feat for a first-time IPL captain. Meanwhile, Mustafizur Rahman has scalped 14 wickets in 13 matches and has been in fine form overall during this second phase of the season.
Despite recent setbacks, the Royals have the highest run rate of 8.5 in the UAE leg of IPL 2021. RR are also the best boundary-hitting team, with a boundary coming off every 4.5 balls. Let’s hope some of these numbers translate into a much-needed win on Thursday!
In our last game against MI, RR played Evin Lewis, Glenn Phillips, David Miller and Mustafizur Rahman as our four overseas players in Sharjah. With no change of venue, we could expect the same combination, even though we lost that game convincingly. On the other hand, it could well be our last match of the season, and we could see the management bringing in players like Oshane Thomas or Tabraiz Shamsi to give our attack a bit of an X-Factor.
Players to watch
Leading our powerplay scoring, openers Evin Lewis and Yashasvi Jaiswal have been striking at 174 and 151 respectively, which is among the best batters at IPL 2021. The pair also have three 50+ opening stands between them so far. Glenn Phillips, who didn’t come through in the last game, is still a fantastic player of spin, averaging above 45 while striking at 130 against spinners in T20s since 2018, and also aggressive against pace with a strike rate of 150 in the same time period. Phillips averages 42 against Sunil Narine, who has dismissed the batter once in 5 innings. On the other side, Mustafizur Rahman has a good record against KKR’s danger man Andre Russell and has dismissed the finisher 3 times in 7 meetings.
Given the current form of both teams, it’s fair to say that KKR hold the advantage over RR as we are walking into the battle after that heavy defeat against MI. At the same time, we would have learnt a lot about conditions at Sharjah after that game, and are likely to perform better on the day. The Royals are currently placed at 7th in the points table, one position above SRH, and are set to give it their all in what is likely to be their final game of the season.