Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will face off in a do-or-die encounter at the PCA IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali, on Friday. Both KXIP and KKR are desperately eyeing a victory to remain in the contention for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 playoffs. Both the teams have 10 points from 12 matches, though KKR are placed above KXIP thanks to a positive net run-rate. With Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals already qualified for the playoffs and Mumbai Indians a win away from sealing a berth, one last berth is up for grab for four teams as Royal Challengers Bangalore have been knocked out of contention.
Both KKR and KXIP had decent outings in the first half of the tournament before losing the plot in the all-important second phase.
After registering four wins and one loss in the first five games, KKR suffered six defeats in a row that derailed their campaign.
Although KKR return to winning ways against Mumbai Indians in their last game, the Dinesh Karthik-led side need to register victories in their final two games to have an outside chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
The KKR top-order -- Shubman Gill (75), Chris Lynn (54) and Andre Russell (80 not out) fired in unison in their last match against Mumbai Indians to lift the side to a mammoth 232 for two, a total which the bowling unit defended to register a much-needed 34-run win.
Russell has been in ominous form for KKR this season and is the third highest scorer so far with 486 runs from 12 games at a staggering strike rate of 207.69. And come tomorrow, KKR would look for yet another superb show from the top-order to negate the team's frailties. But if batting is their strength, KKR's weak link is the bowling department.
Veteran campaigners like Sunil Narine (2/4) and Piyush Chawla (1/57) leaked runs against MI in their last match and if not for the cushion of 230 plus score, KKR could have lost the match.
Russell though was brilliant with the ball too, registering impressive figures of 2 for 25.
Just like KKR, KXIP too had an erratic campaign so far and are on a three-match losing streak, going into Friday's game. Their situation is worse than KKR as they have a negative net run rate, which eventually can come into the picture.
KL Rahul (520 runs off 12 games) is enjoying a good IPL and is currently second in the runs-scorers' list with an unbeaten century to his name, while Chris Gayle is fifth in the list with 448 runs even though consistency is something that has lacked in the West Indian's game.
Besides, the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran and David Miller will have to shoulder more responsibility in the middle-order for Punjab. The bowling will largely depend on skipper Ravichandran Ashwin and much-improved India pacer Mohammed Shami.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Dinesh Karthik (capt/wk), Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Shubman Gill, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Nikhil Naik, Joe Denly, Shrikant Mundhe, Nitish Rana, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson, Harry Gurney, Matt Kelly, KC Cariappa, Yarra Prithviraj.
Kings XI Punjab: Ravichandran Ashwin (capt), K L Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Sarfaraz Khan, David Miller, Mandeep Singh, Andrew Tye, Murugan Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Sam Curran, Karun Nair, Moises Henriques, Varun Chakravarthi, Harpreet Brar, Simran Singh (wk), Nicholas Pooran, Hardus Viljoen, Ankit Rajpoot, Arshdeep Singh, Darshan Nalkande, Agnivesh Ayachi.
The match starts at 8 pm IST.
(With PTI inputs)