It is 4 vs 5 in Match 46 of IPL 2020. As is generally the case at this stage in the league, this is indeed a crucial battle between two sides vying for a spot in the Playoffs. After Sunday’s results which saw losses for both RCB and MI, things have taken an interesting turn and this fixture assumes even greater significance now.
Both sides kept their chances alive with a victory in their previous game. Kolkata Knight Riders played their first perfect game of the season, thumping Delhi Capitals by 59 runs. Kings XI Punjab are on a winning run, registering four victories in a row. KKR currently lead the Playoff race with 12 points. However, another win for KXIP will bring them on par with KKR.
KKR pacers instilling hope
Since 2018, KKR is the only side which is yet to pick 100 wickets through their pacers - 99. This season, their pacers have picked only 32 wickets, again the least by a side. It has hurt them most during the Powerplay.
Time and again, they have let the opposition get off to a great start and have found it tough to pull them back. In six out of their 11 games, they were not able to take a single wicket during the field restrictions.
Against Delhi, however, they showed a much improved performance. They picked two wickets for 27 runs, their best bowling performance in the Powerplay so far. Pat Cummins was amongst the wickets again.
To win against KXIP, it is important to make early inroads into their star-studded batting line-up. The performance against Delhi was just one good day or a start to something bigger, remains to be seen.
KXIP changing fortunes with the ball
KXIP have won five of the six matches in which they have played the spin duo of Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin together. While Bishnoi has been excellent in terms of taking wickets at crucial moments, Ashwin has the fourth-best bowling strike-rate in the season and the best by a spinner.
Chris Jordan has also stepped up. He was taken apart at an economy of 12.3 in his first three games for no wickets. In the last three, he has picked up five wickets at an economy of 6.9 per over. Arshdeep Singh has been expensive but has shown the heart to perform under crunch circumstances, taking nine wickets in six games. Mohammed Shami has fulfilled his role as the leader of their bowling attack.
KKR’s counter for Gayle, Pooran
There is no denying that Chris Gayle’s presence in the middle-order has boosted KXIP’s batting fortunes. It has both decreased the pressure on KL Rahul and covered up for Glenn Maxwell’s underpar returns in the middle-order.
KKR, though, sits up nicely to counter the big man. With two mystery spinners and Lockie Ferguson to operate in the middle-overs, they have the right match-up, not only for Gayle but for Nicholas Pooran as well.
Narine, especially, has been able to pull the plug on the Six Machine. Apart from dismissing Gayle five times in T20s, he has kept Gayle down to a strike-rate of 86.4. It is the fourth lowest strike-rate for Gayle amongst the 80 bowlers against whom he has scored over 50 runs in T20s. Since 2018, Narine has not dismissed Gayle but has still kept him quiet at a strike-rate of 81.4.
Similarly, both Gayle and Pooran have shown susceptibility against hard lengths while facing pacers. While they have Cummins with the new ball, KKR have employed Ferguson during the middle-overs in this tournament.
Narine, the batsman
KKR’s opener during the initial days of the season, Narine was found out as a batsman by pace. The KKR management has still found a way to use his batting expertise to provide an impetus to the run-rate.
Now used in the middle-order, Narine changed the course of the game in KKR’s favor against Delhi Capitals facing the spinners and average pace. Against KXIP, he will be facing the leg-spin duo of Ashwin and Bishnoi.
Since 2019, Narine has a strike-rate of 247.4 against leggies while averaging 47. Both Bishnoi and Ashwin bowl a lot of googlies and Narine is unperturbed against that as well. He has struck them at 233.3 averaging 35, both his highest against a particular delivery type by a spinner since 2019.
Kolkata Knight Riders
With no news on Andre Russell, it is expected that KKR will field the same side which thumped Delhi by 59 runs on Saturday.
Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Sunil Narine, Eoin Morgan ( c ), Pat Cummins, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Varun Chakravarthy, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson
Kings XI Punjab
Similar to Russell, there has been no news on Mayank Agarwal’s fitness as well. In case he is fit, Mandeep Singh will make way for him.
KL Rahul (c & wk), Mayank Agarwal/Mandeep Singh, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, Murugan Ashwin, Arshdeep Singh