A resurrected Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) will take on a confident Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in match number 46 of IPL 2020 at Sharjah on Monday. After a disastrous first half, KXIP have registered impressive triumphs in their last four matches.
On the other hand, KKR recovered from a drubbing at the hands of RCB to put up a professional show against Delhi Capitals, winning by 59 runs.
KKR are at the number four spot in the table with 12 points from 11 games. KXIP have also risen to the number five position with 10 points from as many matches.
With both sides still looking to secure their playoffs berth, every match will be important for them. Head-to-head, KKR have an 18-8 edge over KXIP.
As KXIP and KKR get set to clash in a high stakes encounter on Monday, here’s a detailed look at three player battles to watch out for.
#1. KL Rahul vs Pat Cummins
But for the rare failure against Sunrisers Hyderabad, KXIP skipper KL Rahul has been in stupendous form. In 11 matches, he has amassed 567 runs with one hundred and five fifties. The fact that KXIP have been winning of late will make Rahul even more confident.
The only concern with Rahul’s batting, when the team was losing despite him performing well, was his conservative play. However, the inclusion of Chris Gayle in the playing XI has eased his troubles. Rahul should look to play with a free mind now.
Following his best performance against Delhi Capitals, during which he dismissed Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan to claim 3 for 17, Pat Cummins will be brimming with confidence. It was the kind of effort KKR had been expecting all along from Cummins.
Although it has been a long wait, the pacer can still make a difference to KKR’s fortunes if he continues to perform in the manner he did against Delhi. Against KXIP, Cummins will look to knock over Rahul to give his side a massive edge.
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#2. Nitish Rana vs Mohammed Shami
Going into the match against Delhi, Nitish Rana had been having a torrid run. However, asked to open the innings, he came up with a stupendous effort to put KKR ahead. Rana’s flamboyant 81 against Delhi came off only 53 deliveries, and rescued Kolkata from a horror start.
When in form, Rana can destroy any opposition, and his knock versus Delhi was reflective of the same. KKR should allow Rana to keep opening the innings as Sunil Narine has come good in the middle-order.
Even as Rana was exceptional against Delhi, the DC bowlers missed a major trick by not testing him with short balls. The KKR batsman had clearly struggled against the rising delivery in previous matches, and a number of his dismissals in IPL 2020 have come against the short ball. Bowlers have put Rana into awkward positions, forcing him into false strokes.
Mohammed Shami has the ability to bowl quick, and must look to test Rana with the short ball. He should be confident of performing well having bowled brilliantly in the last few games. Shami can also try his lethal yorker against Rana to catch him off-guard.
#3. Nicholas Pooran vs Varun Chakravarthy
Even as KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal have led the batting charts for KXIP, their success in IPL 2020 would have been incomplete without Nicholas Pooran’s sizzling efforts.
Pooran has come in and blazed his way to some spectacular cameos, which have made the difference between victory and defeat for KXIP. Even as the rest of the batting struggled against SRH, Pooran made a defiant 32 from 28 balls, demonstrating a versatile side to his batting.
In the second half of the innings, Pooran will have to face up to KKR leg spinner Varun Chakravarthy. The architect-turned-cricketer had a dream day against Delhi with figures of 5 for 20. A number of DC batsmen took him on, but none of them succeeded against his guile, with most finding the fielders.
Chakravarthy had been having an impressive IPL 2020 even before the Delhi game. But following his success in the last match, he will be much more confident. Being naturally aggressive, Pooran will look to attack him. Whether he succeeds in the contest remains to be seen.Published 26 Oct 2020, 16:20 IST