Gujarat Lions and Kings XI Punjab have now reached a stage in the season where anything less than victory would be a huge blow to their hopes of qualifying for the playoffs in IPL 2017. Captains of both sides, Suresh Raina and Glenn Maxwell, have both been in good form but have been let down by their respective bowlers.
After winning their first two games, it has been all downhill for Maxwell’s side as they have now lost four games on the bounce in this year’s tournament. They are languishing near the foot of the table with just two wins from their six games and are in desperate need of some inspiration as they seek to end their four-game losing streak.
In start contrast, Gujarat Lions are looking like they are finally getting some form together as they have won two of their last four games and weren't too far away from winning the other two as well. Captain Raina is leading from the front and he has got great support from Brendon McCullum.
After picking up seven wickets in his first three games, including a hat-trick on IPL debut, Andrew Tye was dropped in favor of James Faulkner in the win over KKR. With Dwayne Bravo nearing full fitness, it looks as though Tye might find his opportunities limited unless the Lions decided to opt for Ishan Kishan as the opener alongside McCullum.
Kings XI have tried lots of different options in the bowling department. With the established Indian internationals in Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma and Mohit Sharma all not proving to be good enough, they might have to go for a foreign option or go with a younger pacer.
Both teams seem to prefer chasing and have the batting strength to hit any attack out of the park. With only one team getting to do what they really want, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this battle between two explosive top-orders.
Match date: 23-04-2017
Match time: 1600 hours (IST)
Venue: Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Rajkot
If Gujarat Lions bat first
Predicted score: 190+
With two of their top three in great form, Gujarat Lions will not mind whether they bat first or second. Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina have been got off to a great start in this year’s IPL and have given their team a flying start that every side so desperately craves.
In the last game, Aaron Finch opened along with McCullum and it will be interesting to see if they stick to the same formula or if they go back to Dwayne Smith. Whoever opens, they certainly have an in-form batting line-up that can make a mockery of any bowling line-up and ground.
Dinesh Karthik and Ishan Kishan were both among the runs in the domestic circuit while the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and James Faulkner provide an extra depth in the batting department and their long batting line-up is sure to give most bowling sides nightmares.
Especially one that has the worst run rate in the last five overs in this year’s tournament and whose main bowlers at the death, Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma have both gone at over 12 runs per over towards the end of the innings. Axar Patel will certainly be used at the start of the innings to stifle the Lions but early wickets bring in Raina and Karthik, two excellent players of spin to the crease, so there are runs to be had in any case on a true batting surface.
If Kings XI Punjab bat first
Predicted score: 170+
Hashim Amla showed that he isn’t just here to make up the numbers or fill in for Martin Guptill, who is finally fit again. The rest of the top order is in great form as well. Manan Vohra almost won a lost cause against SRH while Maxwell has flourished with the added responsibility of captaincy so far in IPL 2017.
The only concern for Kings XI is the abundance of middle-order batsman and the negative effect it seems to be having on their performance in the tournament. While they have the fire power to clear any boundary, they also have some obvious limitations that stifle their ability to go big.
The Lions have struggled in the bowling department due to the lack of wickets provided by their spinners. The fast bowlers haven’t got the early wickets and that put more pressure on the spinners, who have struggled to cope up with it. With another explosive batting line-up to contend with, it certainly won’t be easy for the hosts.
Predicted winners: Gujarat Lions