The Kings XI Punjab take on the Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad. The latter is fresh from defending the second-lowest total in the IPL ever, while the former is going through one of their most successful runs in the league. The last time these teams met this season Punjab got the better of Hyderabad by 15 runs, riding on Gayle’s century.
Punjab struggled in the last game without Gayle, but they managed to choke Delhi, regardless. The Sunrisers are facing similar issues, and both teams will need their talismans to perform. Can Punjab maintain their dream run, or will Hyderabad go to the top with another victory?
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.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shikhar Dhawan, Shakib Al Hasan, Kane Williamson (c), Manish Pandey, Carlos Brathwaite, Yusuf Pathan, Wriddhiman Saha, Rashid Khan, Ricky Bhui, Deepak Hooda, Siddarth Kaul, T Natarajan, Mohammad Nabi, Basil Thampi, K Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Sachin Baby, Chris Jordan, Tanmay Agarwal, Shreevats Goswami, Bipul Sharma, Mehdi Hasan, Alex Hales.
Where the teams stand
Kings XI Punjab
Punjab’s struggles in the absence of Gayle should not surprise anyone who has been watching. Gayle has shouldered the entire responsibility of scoring runs for his team along with KL Rahul. Mayank Agarwal has scored 93 runs this season and is the teams fourth highest run-getter. The fifth highest is Ashwin with 53. With Gayle missing the last match and KL scoring only 23, Punjab’s struggles are to be expected. The Universe Boss should be back for this game, but if either of the openers gets out early, Punjab could face an uphill battle against SRH. Finch’s terrible form has continued, while Yuvraj has also struggled to score this season. Karun Nair is another reliable batsman KXIP have besides the openers, and he has been their third highest run-scorer this season with 173 runs. There is a minor chance Miller will retain his place ahead of Finch should Gayle return, but it looks likely that Ashwin will stick with the Aussie.
Punjab’s bowling has been consistently expensive in the season so far. Mujeeb remains one of the most economical bowlers of the tournament as the likes of Rashid Khan and Sunil Narine have slid in the rankings. Ashwin to has been on the mark for the most part. However, Andrew Tye has been brilliant, especially in the last two matches. He picked up 4 wickets and maintained an average economy of below 7, which is astounding given how leaky Punjab have been this season. Mohit Sharma has been a huge reason why, but his replacement Ankit Rajpoot had a great debut for Punjab. He ended with figures of 4-0-23-2, and is a promising talent that Punjab need in their bowling. Barinder Sran was brilliant the last time Punjab played SRH, and he will need to put in a similar performance to help his team stay on the top of the table.
Fantasy Picks: The openers have dominated headlines and are the obvious picks from Punjab. Karun Nair, Ashwin, and Mujeeb are other reliable choices.
Kane Williamson has one off day, where he scored 29, and SRH fold for just 118. This has been the state of their batting since Shikhar Dhawan sustained an injury to his elbow and suffered a subsequent dip in form. The middle order has just not held up this season. Few might blame the pitch for their performance, but Williamson and Pandey were both striking at around 140 before being dismissed. The wicket was two-paced and assisting the spinners, but 118 is a bad score on any pitch. Pandey threw away his wicket after looking in good touch for just the second time this season. The first time, incidentally, was against Punjab when he scored 57 from 42. Saha too has been eminently disappointing, while Shakib’s inconsistency is hurting the side as well. Pathan played a brave knock against Mumbai, laboring for his runs and taking his team to a score that would prove to be enough. He must come in higher up the order to reduce the pressure on the rest of the lineup. This will also give him more time to play himself in and launch into the opposition attack at the opportune time.
Defending 118 without two of your best bowlers is a special effort. Stanlake has been ruled out of the tournament, while Bhuvi also missed out with injury, and SRH did not miss them at all. Williamson played the extra spinner in Mohammad Nabi, but it is unlikely he will retain his place in the team. Chris Jordan looks set to return to the squad on a flat Hyderabad wicket. Rashid Khan bouncing back after two bad games is also great news for SRH. He conceded just 11 in 4 overs and took 2 wickets too. It was a great match all in all for the bowling attack, but they will be vary of Punjab, who smashed 193 against them last time. If Bhuvi returns, SRH have the bowling to counter a Punjab even with Gayle. Without him, breaking through the defenses of the Punjabi openers will be the key to success.
Fantasy Picks: With Gayle possibly in the opposition, it is hard to recommend bowlers. However, Sandeep Sharma’s movement could trouble KXIP, and he has looked in great rhythm. Bhuvi, if back, will be another automatic choice. Kaul is a worthy gamble, but Rashid Khan remains a dangerous pick. Amongst the batsmen, Williamson is the only reliable name to choose. Pathan has been their next best batsman, and the rest have been disastrous.
SRH win. The top-heaviness of Punjab has to cost them at some point, and it might just happen against this attack.
Can Punjab pick up a big upset or will Sunrisers Hyderabad snatch the win? Let us know in the comments and poll below.