IPL 2020: Winner between KKR and KXIP likely to make the cut
Kings XI Punjab have made it a habit this season to be involved in high-tension finishes. What’s changed from the first few weeks, however, is that where they would lose in tight finishes earlier, since the past few days, they’ve started winning.
Beating Sunrisers on Saturday, by 12 runs defending a paltry 126, is among these thrilling matches. The manner in which the team held its nerve, the bowlers and fielders fought back is redolent of high-self-belief and ambition.
This was their fourth win a row and has brought them strongly in contention for a place in the playoffs – something that looked remote two weeks back when they were struggling despite having two of the best batsmen and two of the best bowlers in the league.
Punjab’s opponents tonight, KKR, have also undergone a remarkable transformation. Tentative and hesitant, unable to get the right combination, which led to inconsistent performances, KKR came up with a stunning win over Delhi Capitals.
DC were rated as the best team alongside Mumbai Indians, but on Saturday, they were decimated by KKR who scored a massive 194, then restricted the second-placed side to 135 for 9.
Victory by 59 runs is massive in this format. What this match revealed is KKR’s true potential after being mired in turmoil, so much so that original captain Dinesh Karthik stepped aside midway through the league, and Eoin Morgan took over.
What worked for the former champions against DC was Nitish Rana clicking as opener, Sunil Narine playing a brilliant hand as pinch-hitter, wickets for Pat Cummins (finally) in his opening spell, and sensational spin bowling by Varun Chakravarthy, who has emerged as one of the more fascinating stories in Indian cricket.
Given this backdrop, tonight’s match promises to be compelling. Both teams have a good chance of making it to the playoffs, but as the points table stands, the team which wins today is more likely to make the cut.
Punjab will be hoping Mayank Agarwal recovers in time to partner KL Rahul again. They’ve been the best opening pair in the tournament. Agarwal’s presence would strengthen the batting further.
KKR still look somewhat vulnerable at the top of the order, but Narine’s blazing form in the previous match was heartening. If three batsmen from the top five click, it allows Morgan to play the finisher’s role without undue pressure.
With pitches increasingly helping bowlers, KKR derive advantage. But only small advantage and that too if Cummins and Lockie Ferguson can prise out early wickets, and spinners Chakravarthy and Narine exercise control.
Players To Watch Out For:
Nitish Rana, V Chakravarthy (KKR), KL Rahul, Mohamed Shami (KXIP)
X Factor: Sunil Narine
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator
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