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Playoff aspirants Kolkata and Punjab to square off in crunch encounter

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Kolkata will be looking to ward off Punjab’s challenge for a top-four spot finish when the two teams square off at Sharjah on Monday. The two-time champions won their last encounter against Delhi and will know that a victory over Punjab will see them have one foot in the 2020 Indian T20 League playoffs.

Punjab, meanwhile, are one of the in-form teams at the moment and are unbeaten in their last four matches. They beat Hyderabad in their previous outing and will be aware that getting the better of Kolkata will see them leapfrog Eoin Morgan’s boys on net run rate in the points table.

That said, Kolkata will back themselves to beat Punjab and consolidate their top-four spot, having already come out on top in the earlier meeting between the teams this season. A look at the head-to-head between the sides also paints a bright picture for Kolkata, who have won 18 of the 26 clashes against Punjab. Here, we look at a few interesting battles and key players who can make a difference during Monday’s contest.

Dinesh Karthik needs to start firing for Kolkata

Dinesh Karthik has struggled with his batting this season, having scored 148 runs at a strike rate of 122.31 and an average of 14.8. It’s Karthik’s third-worst campaign in terms of runs scored after more than 10 innings and his average and strike rate are the second-worst and fourth-worst respectively for all seasons. The fact that he has just four thirty-plus scores, including three fifties since 2019, doesn’t inspire confidence either.

Perhaps batting at number 6 can be the answer to his problems. His one innings at that position this year saw him score a quick-fire 29 at a strike rate of 207.1. That knock only adds to the notion of number six being his best position and his stats at six in the past backs him to do well. From 22 innings batting at six in the Indian T20 League, Karthik’s scored 450 at an average of 32.1 and a strike rate of 207.1 – his best numbers in any position.

Sunil Narine against Punjab’s top order

Sunil Narine has taken 28 wickets against Punjab – the most against any team in the Indian T20 League. He needs two more scalps against them to become the highest wicket-taker against Punjab but will know that it won’t be easy against the opposition’s top order. Even without the recent tweak in his bowling action that’s taken a lot away from his bowling, Narine never really had the best of records against the batsmen in Punjab’s top order as the table below shows.

Batsman

Innings

Runs Scored

Dismissals

Strike Rate

KL Rahul

5

78

2

195.00

Mayank Agarwal

5

28

1

133.33

Chris Gayle

8

48

2

82.75

Sunil Narine’s record against Punjab’s top-order

Players to watch:

Kolkata – Varun Chakravarthy

Kolkata’s leg-break spinner Varun Chakravarthy is currently top of their wicket-taking chart after 11 matches, with 12 scalps to his name – more than Pat Cummins, Lockie Ferguson and Sunil Narine. He’s averaging 23.50 and has become Kolkata’s go-to spin option over Narine after the West Indian’s was pulled up for a suspect bowling action and came under the microscope. His figures of 5 for 20 against Delhi in Kolkata’s last match is the best by a bowler this season and with confidence running through his veins, expect him to make his presence felt against Punjab.

Punjab – KL Rahul

Orange Cap holder with 567 runs so far, Punjab’s skipper KL Rahul will pose a massive threat to Kolkata’s bowlers. He will have good memories of hitting Kolkata’s bowlers for 74 in their earlier meeting this season and will be hoping to beat the two-time champions this time around after inexplicably losing to them in the last encounter between the teams. His average of 63 as well as strike rate of 133.41 gives us an insight into the type of form he has demonstrated this year. Rahul’s ability to find the boundary ropes effortlessly is another one of his strong suits with only Shikhar Dhawan (52) hitting more fours than the Punjab skipper’s 48 this season. 

Stats to watch out for:

1: Wickets required by Glenn Maxwell to reach 100 T20 wickets.

2: Wickets Sunil Narine needs to become the highest wicket-taker versus Punjab in the Indian T20 League

8: Runs Andre Russell needs to reach 1500 runs in the Indian T20 League.

61: Runs Rahul Tripathi needs to reach 1000 runs in the Indian T20 League.

300: Dinesh Karthik will play his 300th T20.

Writer’s pick:

Punjab have been on a roll of late and it will come as a surprise if they don’t get the better of Kolkata on Monday, having contrived to inexplicably lose their previous match against the two-time champions. While Kolkata may have won their last game and will be confident, Punjab will head into the contest with more momentum and are the likelier winners.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Sajjad Hussain

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