Languishing at the bottom half of the points table, the 7th ranked Punjab side has once again been plagued by habitual inconsistency and as a result have managed to win only five of their 10 outings so far.
Already into the business end of the tournament, Punjab sorely needed a comprehensive win to resurrect their wayward campaign, and the eight-wicket win over the Titans came at the right juncture. Steered by Kagiso Rabada’s four-wicket burst and Shikhar Dhawan‘s elegant half-century, the win over Gujarat with four overs to spare also pushed Punjab’s net run rate from -0.470 to -0.229.
Up against a Rajasthan bowling attack in Saturday’s afternoon game, Punjab will hope for Dhawan to do an encore, besides expecting the likes of Liam Livingstone, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Jitesh Sharma to fire in unison to post or defend a big total.
Englishman Jonny Bairstow‘s repeated failures and Mayank’s underwhelming campaign have time and again dampened the spirit for the red and gold brigade, and as such Rishi Dhawan and the lower order would be expected to pull above their weight as and when the situation demands.
On the bowling front, Punjab finally seems to have found a settled combination this season. South African pace spearhead Rabada has led from the front with four-wicket hauls in the last two games, and the Indian trio of Arshdeep Singh, Sandeep Sharma and Rishi Dhawan have also been on the money. It will be interesting to see if leggie Rahul Chahar is rested for a couple of ties to accommodate left-arm spinner Harpreet Brar.
On the other hand, smarting from two successive losses, third-placed Rajasthan will need to look beyond their over-dependence on Jos Buttler, and expect the likes of Sanju Samson, Devdutt Padikkal and Shimron Hetymar to step up. Padikkal’s failure to go ballistic has in a way affected the Royals who have ended up with below-par totals of 144, 158 and 152 in their last three matches.
Also Riyan Parag, with one half century in 10 innings so far, desperately needs some runs and a few scalps to justify his selection.
Rajasthan’s bowling attack has been decent with the Indian pair of Prasidh Krishna and Kuldeep Sen complimenting New Zealander Trent Boult well.