It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) found themselves needing 29 off the last 24 balls to beat the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), all while having 9 wickets intact. Things somehow did not pan out for KXIP, and they would end on the losing side after Glenn Maxwell only managed a four off Sunil Narine in the final delivery of the game, where they needed a six to take it to a Super Over.
KXIP had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on that occasion. And that is how things had been for the KL Rahul-led franchise, right up until they faced off against the Royal Challengers Bangalore for the second time at IPL 2020.
A run of four victories in four games since has seen the Kings turn into legitimate contenders for the final playoff spot that the Knights currently occupy. A win tonight against KKR would take them into the top 4 for the first time in this tournament, after having spent almost the entirety of its first half at the foot of the table.
Coming into this clash, however, the head-to-head numbers lay strongly in the Shahrukh Khan-owned franchise’s favour, with KKR having won 18 fixtures compared to KXIP’s 8.
And yet, the most telling numbers of the lot may just be the circumference of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, where these two teams will do battle in Match 46 of IPL 2020. After having missed the first half of the tournament, one Christopher Henry Gayle seems to have made the No.3 spot his own. Providing the support that the openers needed, Gayle has proved to be the bridge between the top-order and the middle-order that KXIP has seemingly lacked all this while.
With a top 4 place in the balance, this KKR v KXIP clash promises to be a cracker with both teams likely to go for the kill.
IPL 2020: KKR v KXIP Match Prediction
The return of Chris Gayle to the Punjab line-up has coincided with a rich vein of form for KL Rahul’s team. And it is no stroke of luck. The big West Indian provides more than just his lusty blows to a KXIP team that seemingly lacked inspiration only a couple of weeks ago.
As mentioned earlier, Gayle has been something of a link between the top and the middle-order, but that is not all. His presence takes some of the burden off of the shoulders of Rahul and Nicholas Pooran, allowing them to play with a little more freedom.
That said, it would be unfair to make no mention of the KXIP bowling that has done its fair share of being impressive in the past few games. From Mohammed Shami’s Super Over performance against the Mumbai Indians to some heroics at the death from the likes of Arshdeep Singh and Chris Jordan in their game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, the KXIP bowling seems to have finally found their footing.
Where KXIP’s stock is rising, KKR’s early tournament form seems to be dwindling a little. After four wins in their first six games, a run of three defeats in four that coincided with Eoin Morgan’s appointment as captain seemed to have left KKR struggling to strengthen their position on the table.
However, half-centuries from Nitish Rana and Sunil Narine helped the Kolkata franchise set early tournament favourites, the Delhi Capitals, a stiff 195-run target. The KKR bowling did not disappoint either. While the entire unit was impressive from the word go, most of the plaudits would be reserved for Varun Chakravarthy, who seems to have finally rediscovered the magic of his mystery spin.
A win here for KKR would mean more than just keeping the fourth place. It would bring daylight between them and the chasing pack, and bring them within touching distance of a playoff spot. For KXIP, this match may just be the next chapter in their redemption story.
With momentum, small boundaries, Chris Gayle’s muscles, and an in-form bowling unit on their side, it is difficult to vote against the Kings XI Punjab in this potentially high-voltage clash.
Match Prediction: KXIP to win today’s match.
Published 26 Oct 2020, 12:25 IST