Preview: Desperate for a berth in the Indian Premier League (IPL) play-offs, a resurgent Kings XI Punjab will aim to go for the kill when they face a down and out Gujarat Lions at the IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali on Sunday.
Kings XI find themselves at the fifth spot in the IPL standings after registering two consecutive wins – against Delhi Daredevils by 10 wickets last Sunday and then a 19-run win against bottom-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore in Bengaluru on Friday.
Gujarat Lions on the other hand, have just three wins from 11 games with six points to languish at the penultimate spot.
On Friday, all-rounder Axar Patel smashed a 17-ball 38 and then followed it up with 3/11, to keep the Punjab side’s chances of qualifying for the play-offs alive.
South African Hashim Amla has been their highest run-scorer with 316 runs, which included a century against Mumbai Indians while Martin Guptill, Shaun Marsh, Manan Vohra, Wriddhiman Saha all have chipped in from time to time but they need to be more consistent to lend depth to KXIP batting.
Skipper Glenn Maxwell is due for a big score after getting under 200 runs in 10 matches, with an unbeaten 44 being his highest score this season.
On the bowling front, medium pacer Sandeep Sharma’s brilliant three-wicket haul blew away RCB’s top-order to set up the win for Punjab before Axar cleaned up the middle order with his left-arm spin.
Meanwhile, Gujarat Lions are already out of contention and can only be the party spoilers if they win on Sunday. The Lions are coming into the match after three consecutive losses, which also includes the heartbreaking defeat against Mumbai Indians in a thrilling Super Over finish at Rajkot.
Despite posting 208-7, the Lions were blown away by Rishabh Pant’s sensational 43-ball 97-run innings and Sanju Samson’s 61 in their last match against Delhi and they would still be reeling from the seven-wicket loss.
Lions have also suffered a body blow losing their opener Brendon McCullum, who will miss the remaining matches after suffering a hamstring strain.
Skipper Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik have done the bulk of their scoring and with the likes of Ishan Kishan, Aaron Finch, and Dwayne Smith in their line-up, Gujarat have the ability to tear apart even the strongest of the bowling attack.
But more often than not, it is their inexperienced bowling unit which has cost the side dearly with the likes of Shardul Thakur, James Faulkner, Basil Thampi and Ravindra Jadeja failing to live upto the expectations of the side.
Kings XI Punjab: Glenn Maxwell (Captain), David Miller, Manan Vohra, Hashim Amla, Shaun Marsh, Darren Sammy, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Nikhil Naik, Ishant Sharma, Armaan Jaffer, Martin Guptill, Eoin Morgan, Rinku Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Arman Jaffer, Anureet Singh, Mohit Sharma, K.C. Cariappa, Pradeep Sahu, Swapnil Singh, T Natrajan, Matt Henry, Varun Aaron, Axar Patel, Marcus Stoinis, Gurkeerat Mann, Rahul Tewatia.
Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (Captain), Akshadeep Nath, Basil Thampi, Shubham Agarwal, Dwayne Smith, Chirag Suri, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Manpreet Gony, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Dinesh Karthik (WK), Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Brandon McCullum, Pradeep Sangwan, Jason Roy, Jaydev Shah, Shelly Shaurya, Nathusingh, Tejas Baroka.