Ahmedabad: The last time they clashed, Rajasthan Royals edged past Kolkata Knight Riders in perhaps the most nerve-wrecking contest of this season's IPL and it promises to be another humdinger when the two teams with fluctuating fortunes square off in Ahmedabad on Monday. (Rajasthan Royals, the Champions of Super Over Thrillers)
Their most recent head-to-head took place on April 29 in Abu Dhabi, which was among three UAE cities which played host to the IPL's first leg. That clash turned out to be a battle of epic proportions. Both the teams ended their regulation overs on the same score, before also finishing level in the Super Over. Finally it took a boundary count to decide the match which was won by Royals in final analysis.
And it would be interesting to see whether KKR would be able to pull themselves up from the slumber and extract revenge for the heartbreaking loss. (KKR vs RR, Super Over Finish: As it Happened)
Royals are better-placed as far as morale is concerned. The team chalked out a thumping win over Delhi Daredevils on Saturday with discovering a match-winner in young Karun Nair, who slammed a 50-ball 73. KKR, on the other hand, were thoroughly outplayed in their 34-run defeat at the hands of Chennai Super Kings in their most recent match. (Schedule | Points Table)
The biggest strength of Royals going into Monday's match is their in-form batting. The team is on a three-match winning streak and given the dismal form which Kolkata are battling, a fourth victory on the trot does not look unlikely. Royals' batsmen have been in fine form but more would be expected of the likes of Shane Watson and Sanju Samson, both of whom have been making decent contributions. On the bowling front, they have discovered the brilliance of leg-spinner Pravin Tambe, who has been making crucial breakthroughs. Pacer James Faulkner has spearheaded the pace department rather well with some good support from Dhawal Kulkarni and Kane Richardson.
In contrast, Kolkata have been living a nightmare, having suffered three back-to-back defeats. Their biggest concern right now is a floundering batting line-up. Skipper Gautam Gambhir has failed to produce a single innings of significance so far, along with veteran Jacques Kallis, who has also been far from impressive.
In their previous match against Chennai, Robin Uthappa and Yusuf Pathan did come up with innings of substance but it would take a lot more than that to notch up wins. On the bowling front, KKR have relied too heavily on spin duo of West Indian Sunil Narine and Bangladesh's Shakib Al-Hasan. Their pacers, led by R Vinay Kumar, have failed to cause any major discomfort to the opposition line-ups.
On current form, Rajasthan Royals will start off as strong favourites but the unpredictable nature of the season could help KKR spring a surprise.
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Watson (c), Ajinkya Rahane, James Faulkner, Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson, Brad Hodge, Steven Smith, Abhishek Nayar, Ben Cutting, Kane Richardson, Tim Southee, Unmukt Chand, Ankush Bains, Vikramjeet Malik, Rahul Tewatia, Ankit Sharma, Amit Mishra, Deepak Hooda, Rajat Bhatia, Kevon Cooper, Iqbal Abdulla, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pravin Tambe, Karun Nair, Dishant Yagnik.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Sunil Narine, Jacques Kallis, Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar, Morne Morkel, Piyush Chawla, Manish Pandey, Veer Pratap Singh, Chris Lynn, Andre Russell, Sayan Sekhar Mandal, Pat Cummins, Debabrata Das, Suryakumar Yadav, Manvinder Bisla, Ryan ten Doeschate, Kuldeep Yadav.