A step away from elimination, Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders will collide in Mohali on Friday (May 3) to keep their remote playoffs hopes alive.
Languishing at the bottom half of the table, both Punjab and Kolkata have 10 points in 12 games but the latter are placed rung above at sixth in the eight-team competition by virtue of a better net run-rate. Even though if one of these two teams win both of their remaining matches, their fate will rely on the results of other sides.
The two teams had a decent start in this tournament before losing the plot in the all-important second phase of the competition. After winning four of their first five games, Kolkata suffered six consecutive defeats before finally breaking the jinx in their last encounter against Mumbai Indians at the Eden Gardens.
Kolkata revealed all their cards in the last match, forming a top-order with Shubman Gill, Chris Lynn, Andre Russell and skipper Dinesh Karthik. All of these four batsmen contributed as they amassed 232 runs in their 20 overs. This is something they should look to do again against Punjab rather than having Russell and Karthik bat at lower middle-order.
Russell has been in ominous form this season and is the third highest scorer so far with 486 runs from 12 games at a staggering strike rate of 207.69. He has also done a decent job in the bowling department and the onus will be on the team management to make the most of his form.
Kolkata's bowling looked slightly better with the inclusion of Sandeep Warrier and Harry Gurney and they will look to go with the same combination against Punjab. However, they will expect a bit more from Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla who struggled heavily against Mumbai.
Punjab too have had an erratic campaign so far and are on a three-match losing streak.
KL Rahul is enjoying a good IPL and is currently second in the run-scorers' list with an unbeaten century to his name, while Chris Gayle is fifth in the list with 448 runs even though consistency is something that has lacked in his game.
Apart from Rahul and Gayle, the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran and David Miller haven't been able to create an impact this season. The franchise will be frustrated will the way Miller has performed this season, managing just 213 runs in 10 games. Meanwhile, their bowling will largely depend on skipper R Ashwin and much-improved India pacer Mohammed Shami, but the two will need some support from the other bowlers as well.
Robin Uthappa and Nitish Rana gave Kolkata a solid platform before Russell smoked 48 runs in just 17 deliveries to lead Kolkata to 218 for 4. The big-hitting all-rounder then took two wickets as Punjab were restricted to 190 for 4, 28 short of Kolkata's total.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
KL Rahul: The stylish right-handed batsman from Karnataka has been Punjab's most consistent player this season. Kolkata doesn't have a great bowling attack and it will be up to Rahul to make full use of it. If Punjab have to win both of their games, Rahul will have to contribute as much as possible considering how bad their middle-order has performed this season.
Andre Russell: The big-hitting all-rounder has won Kolkata quite a few games single-handedly. He has operated at the strike rate of over 200 and has still been able to score on a consistent basis. Kolkata will have to make sure he bats at the top order and gets as many deliveries as possible. He will also be expected to chip in with ball in hand.
Punjab: Varun Chakravarthy has been ruled out of the tournament. Punjab might also bring in Mandeep Singh or Karun Nair in the playing XI.
Kolkata: It's highly unlikely that Kolkata will make any change in their playing XI.
Punjab: KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, David Miller, Nicholas Pooran, Prabhsimran Singh/Mandeep Sing/Karun Nair, R Ashwin (capt), M Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh/Ankit Rajpoot, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Kolkata: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (capt/wk), Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Sandeep Warrier, Harry Gurney.
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First Published: May 3, 2019, 7:22 AM IST