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IPL 2024: Rajasthan Royals eye resurgence against Punjab Kings in second home | Cricket News

Samson, home boy Parag in spotlight as Punjab look to hurt top 2 hopes
GUWAHATI: As the Royals‘ caravan moved from their desert home in Rajasthan to their second ‘home’ in the flood-prone land of Assam, they will be in search of their pink of health that seems to have deserted them recently.
Till a couple of weeks ago, Rajasthan Royals’ (RR) Indian Premier League (IPL) match here against Punjab Kings (PBKS) on Wednesday was being billed as a dress rehearsal for the ‘guaranteed’ top-of-the-table last league clash with Kolkata Knight Riders at the same venue on Sunday.
However, a hat-trick of losses in the month of May has seen the Royals’ fortune take a beating and they have lost some sheen in the ‘invincibles’ tag they have been attached with as the season progressed. Potentially poised to finish as the table toppers after the league stage, Royals find themselves in a position where they need to win at least one of the remaining two games to ensure a top-two finish alongside KKR, who have already sealed that after their Monday night encounter at Gujarat Titans was washed out. KKR have 19 points from 13 games as RR follow them with 16 points from 12 matches.


Led by a charismatic-in his-own-way captain Sanju Samson, Royals won’t find a better opponent than the heavily depleted, rock-bottom Kings to secure the coveted top-two position before taking on the formidable leaders KKR at Barsapara Cricket Stadium.
However, going into the crucial game, RR will miss the services of explosive opener Jos Buttler who has returned home to lead England against Pakistan in a four-match T20 series as part of the preparations for the upcoming T20 World Cup in June. Fellow uncapped English opener Tom Kohler-Cadmore is likely to partner Yashasvi Jaiswal on top of the order.


Samson and local boy Riyan Parag have both been instrumental in Royals’ superb batting form since the beginning of the season despite Jaiswal and Buttler initially not returning higher returns. With the strip and conditions known to him like the back of his hand, Riyan will be geared up to make some valuable contributions in his actual home ground.
Bowling-wise Royals have a balanced unit with Kiwi speedster Trent Boult leading the seamers’ pack of Sandeep Sharma and Avesh Khan while Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal have kept up their responsibilities well in the spin department.
Already rooted to the bottom of the heap with eight points from 12 matches, the Punjab camp was further dealt heavy blows with the news of some regular players’ unavailability coming to the fore ahead of their penultimate game.
Shikhar Dhawan, who has missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, has reportedly been ruled out of the last two games while Jonny Bairstow and stand-in skipper Sam Curran are set to leave for England after Wednesday’s game, which leaves Punjab with a job to find another skipper for their last game at Sunrisers Hyderabad. Liam Livingstone and Chris Woakes have already left India.
Apart from the English players, Proteas speedster Kagiso Rabada, who has had a below-par season, was conspicuous by his absence at the Punjab practice on Tuesday evening and is learnt to be leaving for home as he is suffering from Abscesses.
In the absence of the globally known faces, the responsibility again rests on the likes of Shashank Singh, Ashutosh Sharma to help Punjab end the season on a high note. However, with nothing much at stake, a freewheeling Punjab can spoil Royals’ ‘home’ comfort with the homegrown heroes trying to hog limelight with stellar individual performances.


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