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Seven matches, four wins and three losses - Kings XI Punjab would like to think of it as a glass half full. They'd be mindful of the complete twist of fate from a very similar juncture last year. Comfortably placed at the halfway stage, having registered five wins, Kings XI endured a mighty slide - one that condemned them to the bottom half of the table.
While that might be history, R Ashwin and his troops will be well aware that they cannot take things for granted and will be eager to put their recent loss to Mumbai Indians behind them, to get their campaign back on track.
A flawless record at home in this edition so far augurs well for Kings XI, who are yet to concede a total in excess of 176 in Mohali.
Skipper Ashwin, who has chosen the horses for courses method to zero in on the ideal bowling line-up, would have been pleased with their previous effort at the PCA stadium when the bowlers applied the choke-hold on Sunrisers Hyderabad to restrict them to a total of 150.
Meanwhile, KL Rahul has been at the forefront of Kings XI's runs along with Chris Gayle, and in a welcome change from the previous edition the middle order of Mayank Agarwal, David Miller and Sarfaraz Khan has delivered too. There are some fitness issues for KXIP, with Gayle suffering back spasms and also a blow to the foot, while Agarwal is recovering from a finger injury. While both the batsmen are nearing full fitness, Ankit Rajpoot, who split his webbing, might have to spend some time on the sidelines.
At the other end of the ring are KXIP's opponents on Saturday, still hunting for their first points. With six losses on the trot, Royal Challengers Bangalore are one defeat away from suffering a loss against each of the seven teams this year and the ignominy of most successive losses for a team at the start of an IPL season. Coming into this game on the back of a five-day break, thee Royal Challengers will be hoping for a fresh start.
As has been the case in the past years, their batting has revolved around Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers while there has been little from those after them. Parthiv Patel has been blowing hot and cold with his starts but the major disappointments have been Moeen Ali and Shimron Hetmyer who between them have scored only 89 runs in 10 innings. Among the bowlers, Yuzvendra Chahal has been the standout while Pawan Negi has been on the mark in the two games that he has bowled. But the pacemen haven't been as effective, which had also had an impact on the team's fortunes. To add to their worries, Mohammed Siraj was struck on his right collar area on his follow through while bowling to Marcus Stoinis in the nets and was taken the the hospital.
When: Saturday, April 16 at 8:00 PM IST
Where: PCA Stadium, Mohali
What to expect: With first-innings totals of 176, 166 and 150 in the three games held at this venue, it's clear that some hard work is required on the part of the batsmen, while the bowlers might find it difficult in the second innings considering the dew factor.
Kings XI Punjab
Gayle is highly likely to play said coach Mike Hesson, who was also optimistic of Agarwal's participation. Should the latter be fit for the game, Karun Nair might have to make way. The injury to Rajpoot, which will take a longer recovery time according to Hesson, means Hardus Viljoen might get the nod ahead of Mujeeb Ur Rahman while Murugan Ashwin might feature in the eleven.
Probable XI: KL Rahul (wk), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Sarfaraz Khan, David Miller, Mandeep Singh, Sam Curran, Hardus Viljoen, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Murugan Ashwin, Mohammed Shami
Royal Challengers Bangalore
If Siraj misses due to injury, it could give Umesh Yadav a way back in. Royal Challengers have also added Dale Steyn to their squad as a replacement for Nathan Coulter-Nile. But the South African veteran will only join the team from April 16, and be ready to play only for the April 19 fixture.
Probable XI: Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Marcus Stoinis, Moeen Ali, Akshdeep Nath, Pawan Negi, Tim Southee, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav
What they said:
"If you look at the numbers, the whole batting order has actually performed very well in the first seven games. We've had three 100-run partnerships in the last three games. Therefore the chance of a contribution for the guys lower down is much more limited. Cameos are actually really important" - Mike Hesson.
"I'm not going to blame (any particular department), whether batting or bowling. It's a team game and we haven't played as a team. Sometimes the batsmen are not doing well and sometimes the bowlers are not doing well. It's not an individual game, we want the whole team to click. We are missing that" - Yuzvendra Chahal.
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