With four wins from the six matches played in the UAE leg of the competition, Kolkata Knight Riders have fought bravely to reach the playoffs.
Sitting in fourth place with a net run rate of 0.294 and 12 points, a win here assures them of a top-four finish (unless Mumbai Indians pull a rabbit out of the hat and thrash Sunrisers Hyderabad by a huge margin). And in all fairness, it is not an impossible task.
Given that the pitch in Sharjah is proving to be difficult for batsmen, KKR’s bowling unit should do well and benefit from it. After all, they did beat the league leaders Delhi Capitals here a few days ago by 3 wickets, restricting them to just 127-9.
Most recently, Kolkata defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad by 6 wickets – this time chasing down a target of just 116 runs. The bowlers performed superbly once again as they kept SRH at bay with 115-8.
Needless to say, Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy serve as attractive spin options while Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson bring in the much-needed pace.
Should things change on Thursday in favour of the batsmen, there is sufficient talent in the likes of Nitish Rana, Venkatesh Iyer, Shubham Gill, and Rahul Tripathi to find some runs.
Rajasthan Royals are placed seventh in the table with 10 points – mathematically, they can still qualify provided: 1) They win this match against KKR by a huge margin to improve their NRR, 2) Mumbai Indians lose big to SRH so their final NRR is inferior to RR’s.
Clearly a huge ask of a team that has been largely inconsistent and shaky in the Indian Premier League this season. The boys had every opportunity to seal the playoffs berth but failed to deliver in crucial moments.
The Royals have won just two of their six games since the restart of the competition. While there is a fair bit of talent in the batting lineup (Evin Lewis, Yashasvi Jaiswal, and Sanju Samson have proved their mettle already), their bowling attack has been far from impressive.
RR’s last match was right here in Sharjah against the Mumbai Indians, which they lost by 8 wickets in a low-scoring affair. Even their skipper Samson mentioned in the post-match conference that it was a ‘challenger wicket to bat on.’
Perhaps, their fortunes will improve in this match but given the lack of motivation, it is difficult to imagine a win for them.
The wicket in Sharjah has been absolutely precarious for batters, as evident from the fact that only two of the seven matches played here this season have seen first-inning scores upwards of 150 runs. Wickets have been easy to come by here, giving KKR bowlers an automatic edge over their Rajasthan counterparts.
Teams have struggled here to bat in the first inning which means, the toss winning captain has an easy choice to make.
Kolkata Knight Riders vs Rajasthan Royals Head-to-Head
It’s been neck and neck between the two sides through the years. Kolkata Knight Riders lead Rajasthan Royals by 12-11, having won three of their last five meetings.
As for the reverse leg of this fixture, it was RR who won the match in Mumbai in April by 6 wickets, restricting KKR to just 133-9.
Kolkata Knight Riders vs Rajasthan Royals Toss Prediction
Rajasthan Royals have won the toss a good 13 times in their past encounters against Kolkata Knight Riders.
They also won the toss this season in the first leg of this fixture, post which they chose to field. In my KKR v RR predictions and betting tips, I’m backing RR to win the toss.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders vs Rajasthan Royals Winner Prediction
The picture here is quite simple – Kolkata Knight Riders have a stronger batting lineup and bowling unit than Rajasthan Royals.
Particularly in bowling, they have got quality spinners and seamers alike that can take advantage of the conditions in Sharjah and put pressure on the Royals, right from the beginning. They have also been far more consistent in the UAE leg when compared to their present opponents.
Even though Rajasthan have some quality batters, it is unlikely that they can match a spirited performance from KKR who have everything to lose in this match. All in all, Kolkata Knight Riders have got everything going for them to win this match and book the playoffs ticket.
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