By winning three consecutive games, Rising Pune Supergiant have gained momentum and climbed to fourth spot in the points table. On the other hand, Kolkata Knight Riders are sitting comfortably in second and have displayed some high-quality cricket, but their old habit of panicking at crucial moments still exists.
Hence when both teams meet on Wednesday in Pune, the aim will be to continue the winning streak and further consolidate their positions in the points table. Both teams have balanced lineups and hence it is going to be an interesting contest between bat and ball.
So far, KKR have played three away games, winning two of them, while Pune have also won two of their three games played at their home venue – this match promises to be a fascinating experience for fans.
Here are five winning factors for both teams.
#1 With the bat
So far in the IPL, there have been five instances of a batsman scoring a half-century from the top three of KKR in seven matches. From these five occasions, KKR lost only once. For Kolkata, the winning formula is simple: get runs from the top three. Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and their surprise package, Sunil Narine, must fire if the team wants to win the Pune encounter.
Between overs 4 to 8, Kolkata scored less than 35 runs in three matches and they lost two of these matches. This stat shows how vital good starts are for KKR, which will be the same case against Pune. Hence, Gambhir and Co. have to ensure they don’t run out of fuel after getting a quick start.
For Rising Pune Supergiant, the top order is extremely crucial for winning. Out of the seven matches played this year, the Steve Smith-led team have managed to score five 50-run plus partnerships for the first and second wicket. From these five matches, they have won four games. The focus will be on the trio of Rahane, Tripathi, and Smith.
#2 With the ball
Sunil Narine has stolen all the headlines with his incredible batting but his bowling has also remained a decisive factor in Kolkata’s wins. In his six innings so far, the West Indian’s economy has gone over six runs per over only twice; Kolkata lost one of those two matches. Narine bowling economically is vital to KKR’s victories.
In seven innings, there have been four instances where at least one of KKR’s bowler has picked up three wickets, and the team lost only one of those matches. Picking three in an innings is an important winning factor for the visiting team.
For Pune, leg-spinner Imran Tahir is a key bowler. Out of six matches, the South African bowler has gone for more than 10 runs per over only once and Pune lost that game.
In four games, RPS have picked up three or more wickets before the 11th over and they won three such games. Picking early wickets paves way for Pune victories.
One of the major innovations by Kolkata Knight Riders this season has been their approach in the powerplays. The team management has given the hitting license to Gambhir’s partner at the top of the order, first to Chris Lynn and now to Narine, and this strategy has been hugely successful for KKR.
But like other pinch hitters, Narine prefers speed on the ball and RCB tried to exploit this aspect by using Samuel Badree. But, Narine thrashed his fellow West Indian for 18 runs in one over.
It is going to be interesting to see what strategy Pune have against the left-handed batsman. Will they take the risk of bowling their inexperienced pacers against him or gamble and use Imran Tahir for an over during the powerplays?
#4 The pitch
The pitch at MCA stadium in Pune is known to be a batting track conducive for runs which doesn’t change much through the course of the match. Hence, chasing is what teams prefer here. Pune have won all three tosses on this ground so far and on all occasions have chosen to ball first.
The pitch for this match would again suit the batsmen and chasing might be the first choice for both captains.
Although Pune won their last game while defending, they may not risk doing it again against a team like KKR, given the lack of experience of their bowlers. Gambhir, on the other hand, must have seen Dhoni’s heroics against SRH and he would be well aware of Smith’s batting abilities.
#5 Performance by the little-known players
Rahul Tripathi, who opens the batting for Pune, has four 30-plus scores in four matches. Pune won all but one match when Tripathi has played. He is their second highest run scorer and importantly, has the best strike rate (152.13) among the top four batsmen.
Tripathi’s performance has become a vital ingredient in Pune’s win.
Chris Woakes is seldom in the limelight but always in the wickets column. He is KKR’s highest wicket taker this year and although is a bit expensive, stats of 10 wickets in seven matches justify his place in the side. In Coulter-Nile’s absence, Woakes will be KKR’s ace bowling weapon in their pursuit of a 6th win of this season.