Languishing at the bottom of the points table with just one win from seven matches, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) find themselves in a do-or-die situation as they take on the confident Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in match 31 of IPL.
Given the desperate situation that they are in, KXIP will be hoping that the return of Universe Boss Chris Gayle can mark a turnaround in their fortunes.
In the match against KKR, Punjab choked themselves in a chase of 165 despite fifties from skipper KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal.
RCB, in contrast, have gone from strength to strength. They flattened KKR in their previous match, posting 194 runs on the board and then restricted Kolkata to 112 runs, bowling with great precision. Virat Kohli’s men undoubtedly go into the match with an edge over KXIP.
As the teams get ready to face-off, let’s analyse three player battles that could affect the outcome of the match.
#1. AB de Villiers vs Ravi Bishnoi
Even as the rest of the RCB batting lineup struggled to score well in the match against KKR, AB de Villiers was in a zone of his own, blazing away to an unbeaten 73 off 33 balls, hitting 6 sixes. One of his monster hits even brought traffic to a halt as it hit two cars outside the stadium.
While de Villiers rocketed his way to a superb knock, RCB skipper Virat Kohli looked like a mute spectator with an unbeaten 33 off 28. Such was the nature of de Villiers’ spectacular innings.
KXIP leggie Ravi Bishnoi has one of the few bright spots for the franchise in what has otherwise been a disastrous campaign. In seven matches, the promising spinner has picked up eight wickets at a strike rate of 20.25 and an economy of under eight.
More than his impressive numbers, what has stood out is Bishnoi’s big-hearted attitude, standing up to the biggest names in international cricket. He dismissed Aaron Finch the last time the two sides met.
Against SRH, he sent back both the openers David Warner and Jonny Bairstow, and in the game versus KKR, he got the major scalp of Eoin Morgan. Bishnoi will have his work cut out for him against de Villiers, but he won’t give up without a fight.
#2. Nicholas Pooran vs Yuzvendra Chahal
KXIP’s Nicholas Pooran has done a fine job for the franchise, scoring at a quick pace more often than not. He has smashed 212 runs in seven matches at an amazing strike rate of 176.66. His blistering 77 off 37 against SRH deserved to be in a winning cause, but Pooran was let down by the rest of the batting order.
The young West Indian, though, has some atoning to do. It was his terrible slog against Sunil Narine that gave KKR an opening. From there, the Kolkata side went on to shut Punjab out of the game.
RCB leggie Yuzvendra Chahal will be well aware of the fact that, while Pooran is a highly dangerous stroke-maker, he can be enticed into playing a false shot.
Chahal has had an excellent IPL 2020 so far with 10 wickets from seven matches at a strike rate of 16.20 and an excellent economy of 7.07. He has outfoxed a number of big names in the tournament with his variations.
In the last match against KKR, Chahal conceded only 12 runs in his four overs, dismissing Dinesh Karthik. Chahal’s bag of tricks should be on display against Pooran when RCB faces KKR on Thursday.
#3. Devdutt Padikkal vs Mohammed Shami
Had it not been for young Devdutt Padikkal’s success at the top of the order, RCB would still have been a two-man batting unit powered by de Villiers and Kohli. Aaron Finch has played a couple of good knocks, but the desired consistency which is expected of him has been missing. This is why Padikkal’s presence matters so much to RCB.
In seven matches, the 20-year-old has notched up 243 runs at a strike rate of 126.56 with three fifties. If Padikkal gets RCB off to a flying start, it makes the game easier to manage for Kohli and de Villiers.
For KXIP to make an impact, they will have to get off to a good start with the ball. This is where Mohammed Shami will have a crucial to play. After an impressive start to IPL 2020, Shami has slipped in the last few games. He will be keen to make a good comeback in the do-or-die clash against RCB.
Even as Shami’s impact has been limited in recent matches, he did dismiss opener Rahul Tripathi early against KKR. The veteran pacer will look to use his experience to outwit Padikkal.