Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2018
KKR won the last encounter against RR last month AFP

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) will lock horns in a battle for near-survival in the VIVO IPL 2018 at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Match 49 of the tournament will see the 2008 champions clash against the winners of 2012 and 2014. A defeat in their penultimate league match will dent hopes for either teams to finish in the top four. KKR and RR are tied at 12 points after 12 matches. KKR’s superior run-rate have placed them above RR.

Both sides are coming off after wins. RR, at one stage on the brink of exit, beat defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) on Sunday, while KKR posted the fourth-highest total in IPL history 245 for 6 to beat Kings XI Punjab (KXIP).

Much of the credit for resurgence of Rajasthan should go to Jos Buttler. In his last five innings Buttler has scored 67, 51, 82, 95* and 94*, becoming the second cricketer to score 5 consecutive IPL fifties and the second to 3 consecutive eighties. While Buttler will be expected to continue his form, onus will also be on skipper Ajinkya Rahane and all-rounders Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer.

The contest between Sunil Narine and Buttler may prove decisive at the end. Narine has been KKR’s most valuable player of the tournament. He has been KKR’s best bowler and his blitzkrieg of 75 off 36 balls on Saturday helped KKR score over 12 an over consistently. Skipper Dinesh Karthik, himself in rich form, will look to go all out with their spin attack to exploit RR’s weakness.

Kolkata Knight Riders XI: Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (c & wk), Shubman Gill, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Tom Curran, Prasidh Krishna

Rajasthan Royals XI: Jos Buttler (wk), D’Arcy Short/Heinrich Klaasen, Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Stuart Binny, K Gowtham, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni

Predictions: Rajasthan have the momentum with them. They have won their recent matches, whereas Kolkata have had a mixed run, fluctuating between brilliant and dismal. Despite KKR getting better of RR in their last game, the latter have a better head-to-head record of 9-7. But this is Eden Gardens, and if conditions favour them, KKR have a slight edge.