This will require a focused and regimented approach
Kings XI Punjab's performances this season have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. In the first half of the season, KL Rahul and Co were repeatedly snatching defeats from the jaws of victory. Then came the dramatic turnaround.
After the pulsating double Super Over match against Mumbai Indians the team hasn't looked back, clocking five victories on the trot, the most impressive by any side in the league.
In this period, KXIP moved from bottom of the table to number 4 with 12 points and have a distinct opportunity to make it to the playoffs if current form can be sustained.
This will require a focused and regimented approach. Teams like Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, that had been on a roll in the middle of the league phase, started running out of steam in the past week which has now left them vulnerable.'
KXIP have shown admirable resolve in fighting their way back from a near hopeless situation, and now need to show stamina to take their campaign into the playoffs.
In early matches, the batting was heavily dependent on Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. With Chris Gayle's inclusion and Nicholas Pooran also striking form, there is more depth and class evident. Agarwal's likely return after injury will be a shot in the arm.
While the batting's undoubtedly powerful, in this 5-win stretch, it is KXIP's bowling which has been more impressive though. Mohammed Shami has been sharp and penetrative, Jordan wily with his variations, and spinners Murugan Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi top class.
That said, beating Rajasthan Royals will not be a cakewalk. In their previous match, RR hunted down a mammoth Mumbai score of 190-plus, with Ben Stokes roaring into form, smiting a powerful century.
With Jos Buttler, Steve Smith, Sanju Samson and Rahul Tewatia, Stokes forms a dangerous batting line-up that can upset any side in the tournament. It must be said though, that this powerful line-up has not lived up to its reputation, which is why RR are in their current iffy situation.
Rajasthan also have Jofra Archer, arguably the best fast bowler in this tournament, with spinners Tewatia and Shreyas Gopal in support to put Punjab's batting to severe test.
What Rajasthan don't have is any buffer in the points table. This is a must-win game for them, which means the margin for error is negligible. Whether this pressure inspires them to perform better or pulls them down, remains to be seen.
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator