Bottom-placed Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) will take on an improving Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in match number 24 of IPL 2020 at Abu Dhabi, the first of the two games on the day.
KXIP’s IPL 2020 campaign plunged to a further low with their 69-run defeat to Sunrisers Hyderabad in their previous match. It was Punjab’s fifth loss in six games. Every defeat they suffer now will make it more difficult for them to qualify for the playoffs.
KKR, meanwhile, made a brilliant comeback in the contest against Chennai Super Kings to clinch a 10-run triumph. CSK seemed to be cruising in their chase. But some smart tactics by KKR, combined with some inexplicable batting by CSK turned the game on its head.
With KXIP and KKR all set to fight it out on Saturday, here are three player battles that could have a significant bearing on the contest.
#1. Mayank Agarwal vs Pat Cummins
KXIP opener Mayank Agarwal was run out in disappointing fashion in the last game, following a mix-up with his skipper KL Rahul. It went a long way in Punjab losing the battle to Hyderabad. As such, both Agarwal and Rahul will be keen to make amends, knowing very well how much their success matters to the team.
Agarwal made a good start to the tournament with a blistering 89, and followed it up with a superb hundred a couple of games later. However, his last three scores for KXIP in IPL 2020 read 25, 26 and 9. The kind of form that he is in, Agarwal would be hungry to get back among the big runs.
The KXIP opener will be challenged by Aussie fast bowler Pat Cummins at the top of the innings. The KKR pace spearhead may not have picked up a lot of wickets in IPL 2020 so far, but he has been thrifty barring a couple of matches. He also has the knack of picking up key wickets.
In the match against Rajasthan Royals, Cummins unsettled Steve Smith and forced him to play a bad shot. Cummins will look to target Agarwal as well with his pace in what will be a fire and ice battle.
#2. Rahul Tripathi vs Mohammed Shami
KKR’s batting has changed for the better ever since Rahul Tripathi came into the mix. He made a spirited return to the side, blasting 36 from 16 in a losing cause against Delhi Capitals, batting as low as number eight.
Promoted to open in the very next game, Tripathi did not disappoint with a smashing 81 from only 51 deliveries against Chennai Super Kings. He was the top-scorer in the match by some distance, and will be eager to carry on in the same vein.
For KXIP, experienced pacer Mohammed Shami will need to ensure that Tripathi does not get off to a flying start again. Shami has been in good wicket-taking form in IPL 2020, although in the last couple of games his performances have flattened out a bit.
Shami went for 40 in the match against SRH, and claimed only one wicket, that too late in the innings. For KXIP's sake, Shami will have to rediscover his form and strike early in the innings.
#3. Nicholas Pooran vs Varun Chakravarthy
Nicholas Pooran has been doing for KXIP what Glenn Maxwell was expected to do. After a poor start to the tournament, Pooran has come into his own in his last few games for KXIP. He has 196 runs to his name at a sensational strike rate of 178.18.
After warming up with 44 and 33 against Mumbai and Chennai, Pooran played an fantastic knock of 77 from only 37 balls against SRH, albeit in a losing cause as all the other batsmen struggled. Pooran’s batting form is a sign of hope for KXIP, in case their bowling can resurrect themselves.
Pooran loves taking on the boundaries, but KKR spinner Varun Chakravarthy has the knack of nipping out the big fish. He dismissed David Warner with a brilliant piece of bowling earlier in the tournament and, in the previous match against cleaned up MS Dhoni to halt CSK’s chase.
Chakravarthy can go for runs as well, but on his day he can be extremely tough to get away. On current form, Pooran is the danger-man for KKR, and thus Chakravarthy will look to outfox him.Published 10 Oct 2020, 14:51 IST