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Royals need a win to advance

Mohali: As the scramble for the top four positions has already begun, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have not much to worry even as they would look to consolidate their position at the top.

For Rajasthan Royals (RR), though, it’s a must-win situation when they cross swords with the table-toppers, here, at the PCA Stadium, on Friday.

KXIP, who lost to Mumbai Indians (MI) here on Wednesday, are currently on top of the table with 18 points from 12 outings. The Royals did well to secure 14 points, but their performance seems to have taken a dip lately, which turns out to be their main cause for concern.

They go into this match after a 25-run loss against the Mumbai Indians, paying the price for resting key players such as Steven Smith and Ajinkya Rahane.

Barring opener Karun Nair’s 48, Brad Hodge’s 40 and James Faulkner’s 31 down the order, none of their other top-order batsmen contributed significantly as RR lost the game by 25 runs in pursuit of 179.

Smith and Rahane are likely to make a comeback, as they do need to fire against KXIP. In other words, a victory on Thursday will help the Royals avoid unnecessary pressure and instead, allow them to breathe a lot easier as it guarantees a place in the last four.

Throughout the competition, they have fought hard to feature among the top four and would do themselves a big injustice on not being able to make the play-offs.

KXIP, on the other hand, are on a roll despite suffering another defeat at the hands of MI.

Having disappointed the locals, before whom KXIP made their first appearance of this season, George Bailey’s side will look to do better in their next two home matches. A middle order collapse against MI would certainly be a concern, as KXIP will look to sort that out.

The good thing for the hosts this season has been the team effort unlike in the past when they banked heavily on individual brilliance.

The home crowd would definitely hope for another big knock from Glenn Maxwell, who has enthralled the people with his fearless batting.

There’s no denying that KXIP’s batsmen have successfully chased down 200-plus scores twice so far as they are easily the strongest batting side in the competition, along with that of the Chennai Super Kings.