Off-colour Mumbai Indians still look too strong for misfiring Punjab Kings

Preview

Punjab Kings need to end their losing streak soon, but they will find it tough against the defending champions

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Just because a win will take the Punjab Kings to the same points as the Mumbai Indians doesn’t mean they are having the same kind of tournament. The Kings have been going down a slippery slope since their last-ball opening-game win against the Rajasthan Royals, and a team like Mumbai could be only one convincing win away from finding their groove even if they aren’t looking as scary as they did last year after four games.

This will be the last match for both teams in Chennai, and currently, Mumbai are better suited for the slow tracks there with their bowling attack, especially the way Rahul Chahar has been striking regularly. All Mumbai need is a few more hits from their middle order and they will board the flight to Delhi with a 3-2 win-loss record in Chennai.

The Kings have more and deeper issues to address. They were first pummeled in Mumbai and then moved to a spin-heavy attack in Chennai, but a second collapse in four games is a problem they would want to fix quickly. It is mainly their overseas names that aren’t living up to expectations, and against the defending champions they will have to pull themselves up a few notches, not just one.

Team news

The Kings’ bowling attack hardly bothered the Sunrisers Hyderabad top order on Tuesday. So they may want to bring in a frontline spinner like Ravi Bishnoi, who was their second-highest wicket-taker and their most economical bowler last season.

And unless they change the XI, the Kings also have two left-hand batters in Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran, which could mean another game for Mumbai’s southpaw specialist Jayant Yadav.

Likely XIs

Punjab Kings: 1 KL Rahul (capt & wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Deepak Hooda, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Shahrukh Khan, 7 Moises Henriques, 8 Fabian Allen/Ravi Bishnoi, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 M Ashwin, 11 Arshdeep Singh

Mumbai Indians: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Rohit Sharma (capt), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Jayant Yadav, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Strategy punt

  • The Kings could use Mohammed Shami to stretch Hardik Pandya‘s poor form so far. The fast bowler has dismissed Pandya thrice in 11 balls while conceding 16 runs.
  • Since conditions in Chennai get tougher to bat with time, KL Rahul could consider batting at a quicker pace if they bat first again. The Kings – then the Kings XI Punjab – were among the best batting teams in the powerplay in IPL 2020, but this time they are the slowest with a run rate of 6.79, the second-lowest behind the Royals’ 6.75. If they chase, Rahul should play the anchor because since IPL 2020, the Kings have only a 17% winning record when Rahul scores under 25 but it jumps to a 100% whenever he scores over 75.

Stats that matter

  • The Kings’ openers have contrasting records against Jasprit Bumrah in T20s. While Rahul has collected 93 off 70 against the quick, Mayank Agarwal has been dismissed thrice in ten balls by him, while scoring only two runs.
  • Kieron Pollard is just two runs short of scoring 500 runs against the Kings. He has struck 39 sixes and taken 14 catches against them, both the most for a Mumbai player.
  • The last match between these two teams ended with a double Super Over, in which the Kings finally emerged victorious.
  • So far this IPL, the team batting first has won five of the eight games played in Chennai, but the last two games there have been won by chasing teams.
  • Ishan Kishan, who struck more sixes than anyone last IPL, has the lowest strike rate of 94.36 so far in IPL 2021, with a minimum of 50 balls faced.

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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