The last day of the matches before the playoffs is here. And its the penultimate game that would decide the fate of two teams. The last spot in the playoffs is up for grabs. It has all boiled down to one last knockout punch. The team that handles the pressure and executes its plans will win. But it is a tough question to ask that which team it will be. Rising Pune Supergiant and Kings XI Punjab have staged a remarkable comeback stories.
In IPL 2016, these two teams faced each other in the penultimate game to avoid the wooden spoon. This year they’ll wage a battle to make it to top four. This season also, they started on a negative note, before coming back strongly. RPS won only one of their first four matches before winning 7 of their next 9 matches. KXIP had two wins from their first six matches, and thereafter added five more wins to their tally in the following 7 matches.
Also Read: IPL Fantasy Tips for RPS vs KXIP
RPS have 16 points and KXIP are at 14. If RPS win this match, they’ll jump to the second position to set up a clash with Mumbai Indians in the qualifier 1. While Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders will battle it out in the eliminator. If KXIP came out as the winners, they’ll be at level with RPS, but the superior net run rate means that KXIP will be through. They’ll face KKR in the eliminators and Hyderabad and Mumbai would be playing the qualifier 1.
Whoever loses the match will be out of this tournament. It’s as simple as that. It’s a virtual knockout. And the only way to handle the pressure would be to apply it.
The pitch at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune is a batsmen friendly wicket. With 180+ scores being chased down with ease at this venue, another high-scoring game can be expected and chasing will be the preferred option for the captain winning the toss, with four out of six matches here being won by teams batting second. The captain winning the toss has opted to chase in all the 6 matches in Pune this season.
RISING PUNE SUPERGIANTS – STRENGTHS
Rahul Tripathi, Manoj Tiwary and Ben Stokes have consistently carried the batting on their young shoulders. And most of the time they have been successful. Ben Stokes is certainly turning out to be one of the most valuable players in IPL 2017 despite being paid a whopping 14.5 crores. His bowling as well as fielding efforts have proved to be match winning contributions for RPS.
Jaydev Unadkat and Washington Sundar have been amazing for Pune in the bowling department. Jaydev Unadkat has played 9 matches this season, and he has never gone wicketless. And one final reminder, this is a knockout, a crunch game, and there’s one man called M S Dhoni in their ranks. His proven record in the knockouts will be something to look out for.
RISING PUNE SUPERGIANTS – WEAKNESSES
Their biggest concern would be that the skipper Steve Smith and Dhoni haven’t converted their promising starts into bigger contributions. Another major worry in the batting department is the poor form of Ajinkya Rahane. Shardul Thakur hasn’t contributed much with the ball. Adam Zampa has big shoes to fill after the departure of Imran Tahir for national duty. Dan Christian has failed to impress especially with the bat.
KINGS XI PUNJAB – STRENGTHS
KXIP have done remarkably well in their last two must win matches. After defending 167 successfully against KKR, the Punjab franchise managed to overcome Mumbai Indians in a high-scoring thriller to stay alive in the tournament. The gamble to send Wriddhiman Saha as an opener worked wonders for them, as he played a superb match winning knock of 93 against Mumbai Indians.
Martin Guptill has ensured explosive starts upfront. With Glenn Maxwell finally returning to important and much deserved No.3 position in the batting line up, KXIP can look up to him to build a foundation for big scores. Shaun Marsh has made some handy contributions with the bat.
Axar Patel has impressed with both bat and ball and his team needs him to fire to win this crucial encounter. In the bowling department, Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma have held their nerves to eke out wins in difficult situations. Rahul Tewatia is turning out to be a good leg spin option.
KINGS XI PUNJAB – WEAKNESSES
Their bowling leaves a lot to be desired as Matt Henry and Ishant Sharma has leaked away too much runs. Manan Vohra’s poor form with the bat makes their middle order a little weak. Without Hashim Amla, none of the batsmen have shown confidence to play longer innings. In a pressure game like this, a lot depends on their captain, Glenn Maxwell. His one bad day could result in the end of the road for KXIP.
RPS – RPS are unlikely to make a change in their playing eleven in a crunch game.
Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Tripathi, Steven Smith (capt), Ben Stokes, MS Dhoni (wk), Daniel Christian, Manoj Tiwary, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Jaydev Unadkat, Adam Zampa
KXIP – Owing to concerns about poor form of Matt Henry and Ishant Sharma, KXIP may decide to play Darren Sammy and Varun Aaron.
Martin Guptill, Manan Vohra, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell (capt), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Axar Patel, Rahul Tewatia, Varun Aaron , Matt Henry, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Played – 3, RPS – 1, KXIP – 2.
Earlier this season at Indore, KXIP restricted RPS to 163 before cruising to six wicket win with Glenn Maxwell’s 44 off just 20 balls.
A knockout penultimate game of this season and two resurgent sides clashing, this is surely a tough one to predict.
If RPS bats first
1st Innings Score: 170 – 180 KXIP wins by 5 wickets
If KXIP bats first
1st innings Score: 170 – 180 RPS wins by 5 wickets.