The Punjab Kings (PBKS) will take on the defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) at the Chepauk in Chennai on Friday in the 17th game of the IPL 2021 season. Both teams are coming into this match on the back of losses in their previous games and will be keen to get back to winning ways.
PBKS played their first game at the Chepauk this season against SRH but failed to adapt to the slow surface. Having been bowled out for just 120, the underwhelming PBKS bowling attack couldn't stop the deadly SRH opening combination of Jonny Bairstow and David Warner from making it an easy chase.
MI continued their disappointing batting performance, only managing a modest 137-9 in their 20 overs against a confident DC side in their last game. Their strong bowling attack couldn't do any damage as some sensible batting from the opposition handed MI their second loss of the season.
PBKS vs MI: 3 batsmen to watch out for
Both teams would have realized the importance of runs on board on such slowish tracks. With run-scoring becoming more difficult towards the end of the innings, the onus will be on the top-order from both teams to produce a flying start.
On this note, let's take a look at three batsmen who could help their teams reach a competitive total in the PBKS vs MI encounter:
#3 Quinton de Kock
MI's Quinton de Kock was brought in from the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) through the IPL 2019 trade window. Many felt this wasn't a great decision as the Proteas opener struggled for consistency with the RCB.
However, as soon as he donned the MI jersey, De Kock turned into an absolute beast, plundering 1032 runs in 32 games across the 2019 and 2020 IPL seasons where the team emerged victorious.
De Kock's counter-attacking style of batting proved too hot to handle for opposition bowlers last year. He also helped cover up for MI skipper Rohit Sharma's inconsistent run with the bat. De Kock was one of the main reasons why MI were successful in defending their title.
Adjusting to the slow tracks in Chennai was never going to be a cakewalk for De Kock, who likes the ball coming onto the bat. His struggles so far have been evident with just 44 runs from 3 games this season.
However, the PBKS bowling attack has been leaking runs and De Kock did really well against them last season. Facing them could be a tonic that the South African needs to get back into form. With run-scoring upfront being extremely crucial, De Kock might well make a match-winning contribution for MI.
#2 KL Rahul
KL Rahul has been a top-class batsman for PBKS with over 2000 runs already in just over three seasons. However, there are some teams against which he absolutely comes into his own and MI are certainly one of them.
Rahul has scored 580 runs in 12 games against MI at a ridiculous average of 64.44 with 4 fifties and a sensational hundred to his name. These are tough times for PBKS and they will need their skipper to step up and put in an inspiring performance with the bat.
The PBKS captain hasn't been at his fluent best this season, despite racking up a couple of half-centuries. His strike-rate is under the scanner and fans expect him to play with more freedom.
It will be interesting to see how Rahul copes up with an in-form MI bowling attack on a pitch that will only get difficult for batting with time. However, he certainly has the pedigree to deliver another masterclass against the defending champions.
#1 Suryakumar Yadav
Suryakumar Yadav has just one half-century to his name this season so far. But he still looks like MI's best batsman at the moment. The 30-year-old is in terrific form and has been unlucky not to be able to convert his starts into a big score.
Scoring 1316 runs in his first three seasons for MI, Suryakumar has been their Mr. Dependable and has produced some match-winning knocks under immense pressure.
Like other seasons, MI haven't been able to get off to the best of starts even in IPL 2021. However, they have been in this position before and have ended up peaking at the right time. Suryakumar could certainly trigger an upward curve for MI in terms of getting a winning momentum going.
Batting at No. 3, Suryakumar Yadav is the key to helping MI get to a substantial total in their 20 overs. It will be a sight worth watching if the 30-year-old manages to produce another sensational knock for MI.