Qualifier 1 - the first of the four Playoff matches of Pepsi IPL 2014 will see the teams who finished in the top two positions in the standings clash for a direct passage to the tournament final.
Kings XI Punjab, who’ve had their best-ever season in the IPL registering 11 wins, finished the league season atop the eight-team standings. They’ve been ruthless right through the season and have steamrolled opponents mercilessly. They are pitted against the Kolkata Knight Riders, who are one of two teams to have defeated them this season.
At one stage, the Kolkata Knight Riders had just two wins from half their season’s league fixtures and faced an uphill task to qualify for the Playoffs. However, the team has turned the tables in stunning fashion, winning their remaining seven matches on the bounce and barging into the Playoffs. In their most recent outing, riding on a Yusuf Pathan blitz, they decimated Sunrisers Hyderabad and displaced Chennai Super Kings from second place in the points table.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 4 pm IST
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Kings XI Punjab’s batsmen have caused plenty of damage this season; not only have they scored more runs than any other team in the league stage, they’ve scored the runs at an incredible rate of 9.04 runs.
For most part of the season, KXIP’s approach has been to go on an all-out attack. In recent times, Manan Vohra and Virender Sehwag have gone after the bowlers from the word go, while Glenn Maxwell has inflicted scars on bowlers like no other batsman – this despite low scores in his last three outings. David Miller is the other important batsman in the KXIP scheme of things, for he has the game to play second-fiddle when someone is going hammer and tongs at the other end, or turn on the heat when required.
On the bowling front, the KXIP’s attack has been steady, if not menacing. Young Sandeep Sharma has been the pick of the bowlers, often rattling the opposition right at the top. Mitchell Johnson has not been at his best so far this season, and these last few matches give him the opportunity to redeem himself.
There will be plenty of eyeballs on Yusuf Pathan after his exploits in the previous match. The 31-year-old is coming into this match after having scored the fastest half-century in the IPL – off 15 balls. That knock was a demonstration of the fact that on his day the elder of the Pathan brothers is capable of running away with the match singlehandedly.
On the batting front, KKR have ridden on the starts provided by Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa. As a pair, they have operated on the premise that one of them bats for the majority of the 20 overs. Uthappa in particular has been an epitome of consistency; unlike many players who play cross-batted shots or muscle their way, Uthappa is reaping the rewards of playing orthodox cricket.
On the bowling front, the four overs of Sunil Narine will be crucial as usual, while Morne Morkel will be expected to crank up the pace.
Notes from previous match
Kings XI Punjab v Delhi Daredevils: The KXIP bowlers deserve a pat on the back for two things: a) for pulling things back and dismissing the Delhi Daredevils for 115 after they’d raced to 44 in the first six overs, and b) for relentlessly keeping the pressure on the Delhi Daredevils batsmen. Every bowler who got the ball in hand responded by picking up wickets. The one concern for the team management will be the form of Glenn Maxwell, who has been dismissed cheaply in his last three innings.
Kolkata Knight Riders v Sunrisers Hyderabad: Chasing down 160 in a 20-over contest itself is a difficult task. But needing to do it in 15.2 overs, and to be able to do it in 14.2 overs speaks volumes about the belief in the KKR dressing room. The bowling came in for some tap especially early on (SRH scored 69 in the first eight overs) and that will be one area KKR will want to improve. On the batting front, the team will be glad that openers Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir rode on their good form, and that Yusuf Pathan led the way in accomplishing the improbable.
By virtue of their thumping victory in Cuttack earlier this season, the Kolkata Knight Riders have a slight edge over Kings XI Punjab where history is concerned. KKR have won seven of their 13 previous meetings against KXIP.
The story is no different in contests between these two teams at Eden Gardens; hosts KKR have won 3 of their 5 matches against KXIP.
Kings XI Punjab have a 100% record in run-chases in Pepsi IPL 2014; they’ve won each one of their 6 run-chases this season. Kolkata Knight Riders meanwhile have registered victories in their last six run-chases.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ Robin Uthappa (516 runs) has scored 151 more than the second-highest run-getter in the India-leg of Pepsi IPL 2014.
Robin Uthappa’s season aggregate of 613 runs is the highest by a Kolkata Knight Riders player in the IPL. Gautam Gambhir held the previous record when he scored 590 runs in 2012.
The result of this match will dictate what happens to the teams going forward. The winner of this contest progresses to the Final, scheduled to be played at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on June 1. The loser of this contest will travel to Mumbai, where they will meet the winner of the Eliminator (contested between the Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians) on May 30.