Mohali will see Punjab Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders lock horns in the first noon game of this season. Andre Russell in one corner, Sam Curran in the other. Will it provide us with more nail biting moments, only time will tell.
Last season, PBKS struggled to nail someone on to the #7 spot, trying many options with limited success. Sam Curran’s arrival should solve this problem. He provides them a lower-order batting option, and guaranteed four overs in every game. Their batters failed to get going in the middle-overs, spinners in particular having the wood over them throughout. Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone’s absence only makes it worse. They will be hoping for Matt Short, Bairstow’s replacement, to carry his BBL form to Mohali.
Meanwhile, KKR will be beginning this season with problems of their own. Shreyas Iyer’s injury forced layoff only makes matters worse. They’ve not done much to mitigate their batters’ struggles against pace. Rahmanullah Gurbaz is the only new addition they can back on, and he’s still new to playing T20 cricket at the highest level.
Pitch & Conditions
Spinners have had a bigger say at the PCA Stadium, Mohali. In all T20s since 2020, spinners have conceded runs at 6.6 RPO and taken a wicket every 17 balls. The same numbers for pacers stand at 8.5 and 22.
The Mohali T20I between India and Australia from last year saw the 200 mark being breached in both innings. Even there, spinners conceded at 8.5 RPO and took a wicket every 25 balls, while pacers conceded at 12.1 RPO and took a wicket every 33 balls.
Things to watch Out For
Punjab’s batters vs Kolkata’s spinners
PBKS lost the most wickets and scored the slowest amongst all teams against spinners. KKR’s spinners had mixed returns, with batters preferring to just play them out over attacking them. At a venue that aids spinners, it’ll be interesting to see how the PBKS batters tackle KKR’s spinners.
Death Overs Battle
The final four overs saw the KKR batters score the second slowest, while Punjab was the second best bowling unit in the 16-20 phase. The addition of Nathan Ellis and Sam Curran makes their death bowling stronger, given how Arshdeep Singh bowled at the death in IPL 2022.
Umesh Yadav loves playing against PBKS. He has taken 33 wickets against them so far, and has taken a wicket every 14 balls. Expect him to take the new ball to help KKR get some early breakthroughs.
KKR can look to exploit PBKS’ spin weakness by bringing in another spinner to the XI. A slightly left-field choice could be Delhi’s Suyash Sharma. He’s not played a lot of professional cricket, but has a strong action and a deceptive googly. Punjab’s lack of LHBs in the middle-order could be exploited here.
Punjab Kings (Predicted XI): Shikhar Dhawan (C), Matt Short, Prabhsimran Singh (WK), Sikandar Raza, Jitesh Sharma, Shahrukh Khan, Sam Curran, Harpreet Brar, Rahul Chahar, Nathan Ellis, Arshdeep Singh
PBKS will be missing a few of their key players for the first couple of games. Liam Livingstone is yet to be cleared by ECB, and won’t be available for the first game at least. Kagiso Rabada will be on national duty till 2nd April, and will only be available for selection from the next game.
Kolkata Knight Riders (Predicted XI): Rahmanullah Gurbaz (WK), Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana (C), Mandeep Singh, Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Shardul Thakur, Sunil Narine, Umesh Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Varun Chakaravarthy
Litton Das and Shakib Al Hasan will miss at least two games, as the duo will feature in the Bangladesh test against Ireland which is scheduled to end on 8th.