After a bleak performance in the first half of the competition, two-time IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders have truly staked their claim as a top-four team. And what’s impressive is they did so in great style.
Three of the four wins they have picked up in the UAE leg of the competition came against some big guns like Royal Challengers Bangalore (9-wicket victory), the defending champions Mumbai Indians, and the second-placed Delhi Capitals. They could have very well made it four for four but ended up losing to Chennai Super Kings by just two wickets.
Whether it’s batting or bowling, the KKR boys are firing on all cylinders and need to win just two more matches to seal the playoffs berth.
As such, the team hasn’t been perturbed by the absence of Pat Cummins as other bowlers like Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakravarthy, and Sunil Narine have picked up the slack.
Batting wise, the addition of Venkatesh Iyer to the opening order has been a masterclass in decision-making as the Indore-born batsman continues to shine. He is an all-rounder who also proved his mettle with the ball against Delhi Capitals. The likes of Shubham Gill and Rahul Tripathi have also fared well.
Of course, the absence of Andre Russell (due to injury) may come as a big blow for the side. Eoin Morgan will need to tread carefully and ensure his lack of presence in the team is well compensated, especially during the death overs.
KKR Likely XI
Gill, Iyer, Tripathi, Morgan, Rana, Karthik, Al Hasan, Narine, Chakravarthy, Ferguson, Mavi
Punjab Team News
It must be quite frustrating to be a Punjab Kings fan at the moment as K.L Rahul & co. continue to struggle with inconsistencies and form issues, in yet another season.
Sitting at sixth place with just eight points, they will need to win their remaining three matches to reach the playoffs – all by a decent margin to make up for their current net run rate of -0.288 (should things get close enough to come down to this particular metric).
Seeing that they have won just one of their three matches in UAE (could have been two had it not been for the two-run defeat against Rajasthan Royals), it is clearly a high ask of them to deliver on this. Most recently, they fell to Mumbai Indians by six wickets in a futile attempt to defend a small total of 135 runs. In the game preceding that match, Punjab Kings defended 125 runs but against Sunrisers Hyderabad – a side whose IPL 2021 campaign has been a one to forget.
PBKS are also yet to discover their best playing XI – and constant tweaking is hurting the team. Chris Gayle continues to have a disappointing campaign with the bat; Rahul’s momentum has also gone down in the last couple of matches. Aiden Markram is serving as a beacon of hope but he can’t pull the team by himself.
A concerted effort is needed – on and off-field – to win their next three matches in the Indian Premier League.
The pitch in Dubai has proven to be entertaining enough for both – batters and bowlers although, it is the former who have had a much better time on the whole.
Punjab Kings did score 180 runs here some 10 days ago while Kolkata Knight Riders will play their first match at the venue this season.
KKR vs PBKS Head-to-Head
In the head to head tally between Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings, it is the Kolkata outfit that leads with an impressive lead of 19-9.
They also won the first leg of this fixture in Ahmedabad by five wickets, chasing a small total of 124 runs.
Kolkata Knight Riders v Punjab Kings Toss Winner
KKR also lead the way when it comes to the toss, having won 17 out of 28 times – including the one from the first leg. Since we are backing Kolkata here, let’s go and back Punjab to at least win the toss.
Going purely by the player quality, Kolkata Knight Riders are looking a lot more established than their Punjab counterparts. They have momentum on their side and the string of last few victories over the big guns have led them to believe in themselves again.
This is a team that is reaching its very best whereas Punjab Kings are struggling and reeling with losses and bouts of inconsistencies. Between the two, the choice is obvious.
Of course, Punjab Kings may take advantage of the fact that KKR may find it a bit difficult to adjust to a new (and bigger) stadium – but given the depth of their opponents, a victory for PBKS is a bit difficult to imagine.
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49, 21, 21 – these have been the stats of KL Rahul in the UAE leg but when in form, he can obviously outdo these numbers any given day. He may have been quiet in the last couple of matches but sooner or later, he will rise up. Given the gravity of the situation here, now would be a good time as any.
Seeing that he is the opener and the skipper, he will be eager to play the captain’s innings and guide his side to a strong start to their inning – be it batting first or second.
Kolkata vs Punjab Fun Statistics
Gayle has hit 54 sixes against KKR – the most by any player against the Kolkata outfit
Harbhajan Sing has dismissed Gayle five times in his career and an economy of 6 against the Jamaican
Sunil Narine has picked up 30 wickets in this fixture – the highest by any player in the two teams