The number one and number three teams on the IPL points table take on each other as KKR face the Kings XI Punjab at the former’s home ground. Both teams have won their previous two games. Punjab have scored 190+ in both those matches, while KKR have found their balance with the ball.
This will be a highly interesting contest given that Punjab are the only team to beat Hyderabad this season, while KKR are on top of the table despite having played an extra game. Will Punjab’s batting decimate yet another attack, or will KKR stop the rampage their opponents have been on?
Kings XI Punjab
Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, Lokesh Rahul, Chris Gayle, David Miller, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Manoj Tiwary, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Barinder Sran, Andrew Tye, Akshdeep Nath, Ben Dwarshuis, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar, Manzoor Dar.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Dinesh Karthik (c), Robin Uthappa, Mitchell Johnson, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill, Ishank Jaggi, Nitish Rana, Vinay Kumar, Apoorv Wankhade, Rinku Singh, Shivam Mavi, Cameron Delport, Javon Searles, Tom Curran, Prasidh Krishna.
Where the teams stand
Kings XI Punjab
Chris Gayle has been instrumental to the scores Punjab have put up in the last two games. He followed up a 63 from 33 balls with a century from 60=odd balls, quickly climbing up the leading run-scorers chart. KL Rahul has also been in great form at the top, while Mayank Agarwal has thrown away good starts too often. Karun Nair has been solid with the bat, having scored 30+ in three of the previous games. One dilemma for Punjab is the selection of Yuvraj Singh for the game against KKR. He did not get to bat in the last match after being dropped down to number 6, and he has not looked too comfortable in the games before. Manoj Tiwary is arguably a better option, and we might just see the change on Saturday. Moving on, Finch finally scored some runs after two golden ducks in the first couple of games. 14 from 6 is a decent start, and he remains a dangerous batsman for Punjab. Scoring 193 against the SRH attack, albeit without Stanlake, is no joke. KXIP’s batsmen will have a ball at a Kolkata pitch that has been very kind to batsmen recently, and KKR’s bowlers need to brace themselves for this lineup.
Ashwin’s success with the ball has been overshadowed by his brilliance as a captain. He had an off-day against Hyderabad, similar to Narine and his expensive spell against CSK. He has been economical in the three matches before, picking up 4 wickets in the space too. Mujeeb has been a revelation for Punjab, with an economy of just 6.8. Mohit Sharma has been very expensive, conceding at over 10 in every match. Sran and Tye have been inconsistent, but they were on the mark against Hyderabad. They have conceded 175+ in both their last matches. While their batting can probably cover for any performance, it is not ideal to be conceding at this rate, especially against a lineup that can make you pay for it.
Fantasy Picks: Gayle, KL Rahul, and Karun Nair are the most reliable picks. Finch is a dangerous batsman but is yet to get into his rhythm. Mujeeb would be a good pick if KKR did not have foreigners worth so much more. The pacers are a risk, and so is Mayank Agarwal.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR have been an efficient side with the bat bar that one game against SRH. They have scored 200 or more in two of their five games and have efficiently chased two targets in the 160-180 range. Lynn has looked rusty with the bat after his six-week hiatus from cricket, and his shoulder is probably bothering him too. Narine, on the other hand, has the fifth highest strike rate(172) in an edition that has heavily been dominated by the batsmen. Uthappa has been contributing regularly to the score with some solid performances. Rana and Russell and the fourth and fifth highest run-scorers in the edition so far. The former has really shone through in the last two games, earning the man of the match award in both. Dinesh Karthik was brilliant in the last game, scoring 42 from 23. He has generally looked very reliable in the five games so far. Gill at 7 is still a little hard to digest, but KKRs victories in the last two games probably imply he will continue to play too far down the order. KKR’s batting could easily exploit Punjab’s attack. They also have some exceptional players of spin in their team, and it will be interesting to see how they combat Mujeeb and Ashwin.
Before the match against Rajasthan, Narine had the best economy of any bowler in the tournament. He remains the second highest wicket-taker of the tournament. After the previous game, Nitish Rana became the bowler with the best average in the tournament. He has only bowled four overs in the entire tournament so far, but he has taken 4 crucial wickets in those overs, including names like Kohli, de Villiers, and Rahane. The pacers have been expensive, but the wickets have started to come in. Curran has looked good in the last two games, while Mavi has been incredibly promising with his pace and lengths. Kuldeep has had a great few games, and Chawla has also been economical. The spin trio will continue to be the key area for KKR. Rana vs Gayle or Finch will be a contest worth watching if it happens. This match is going to be all about this team’s attack vs Punjab’s batting, and whoever wins that contest will win the game.
Fantasy Picks: The entire batting lineup, except Gill, is top-class. Narine and Lynn are slightly riskier compared to the middle order, but Narine will make it into any team due to his bowling. Yadav can be expensive with the ball, but he is always amongst the wickets. Rana will also be one to watch out for as a bowler. Russell, DK, Rana, and Narine are the top picks.
KKR win. They have been the better-balanced side so far, and hold the advantage.
Who comes out on top when two IPL powerhouses clash? Let us know in the comments and poll below.