Both Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders would go into their clash against each other having registered wins in their previous encounter. But, the victories were completely in contrast. While Kings XI Punjab, true to their name, thrashed Sunrisers Hyderabad by a massive margin, Kolkata Knight Riders somehow escaped out of jail against Royal Challengers Bangalore, partly due to some spectacular bowling and fielding, but equally aided by some forgettable batting. A win is a win at the end of the day, and KKR would thus believe that they have an equal chance of upsetting Punjab.
Punjab may have won three in three, but it has mostly been a two-man show, at least in two of the three games. Against Hyderabad, Glenn Maxwell single-handedly took Punjab to victory. While Maxwell’s supreme form over the three matches would please his franchise no end, this one-sided bravado should also be a cause for concern for Punjab. Remember, we are into the second week of the tournament, and Punjab still do not know how they would fare in case Maxwell fails. In all the three matches, the Aussie has been spectacular with his big hitting and innovations, and that would be to say the least.
While Maxwell’s brilliance in unquestionable, one of his biggest challenges would come against Sunil Narine. The West Indian spinner has undone some of the best in the business with his mystery deliveries, and it would be intriguing to see how Maxwell responds to the same. The contest could last only one ball or Maxwell may pound Narine like he has treated all other bowlers in this IPL. Whatever the result of the mouth-watering contest, it would be a tragedy if Maxwell and Narine do not come face to face during the match due to certain circumstances.
The other in-form Kings player in the series would also be keen to continue his impressive form. David Miller did not make a significant contribution against Hyderabad, but his whirlwind fifties in the first two matches were not far behind Maxwell. In fact, in the second match he even outdid Maxwell in terms of strike rate. Miller, who made a serious impression in the IPL last year, has continued his great work with his big hitting this year too. Along with Maxwell, Miller has been hugely responsible for Punjab finding themselves in such a great position early in the tournament. KKR know who the danger men are for them.
As for Kolkata, they would seriously hope that skipper Gautam Gambhir returns to form. KKR were lucky in the last match that they scraped home in spite of poor batting returns. But, Gambhir and Kallis would have to perform at the top for them to fare well in the event. One of the biggest positives for KKR in the shock upset over RCB was the emergence of Chris Lynn. Not only did he bat with flair, but pulled off that spectacular catch to turn the game around. KKR would be looking forward to more such wonderful performances from their newly-discovered hero.
--By A Cricket Analyst