Kolkata will want to consolidate their position in the top four of the Indian T20 League when they cross paths with Punjab at Abu Dhabi on Saturday. The two-time champions returned to winning ways in their last outing and will be eying their fourth win of the season at the expense of Punjab.

Punjab, meanwhile, seem to be to struggling to produce their best and currently find themselves at the bottom of the points table, having managed to win just one of their six matches so far. They go into Saturday’s clash against Kolkata on a four-match losing streak and will be desperate for a positive result.

The head-to-head, though, doesn’t make for kind reading if you are in the Punjab camp. The two teams have faced one another 25 times with Kolkata coming out on top 17 times, while Punjab have emerged triumphant on eight occasions. Here, we look at a few key players and battles that could play a part in dictating the outcome of the contest.

Keeping Dre Russ out of the game is nigh on impossible

Despite not enjoying the best of times with the bat in the 2020 Indian T20 League, Andre Russell has been very much involved in his team’s success so far by delivering with the ball whenever called upon. He has managed to score just 50 runs in four innings for Kolkata this season but has done well with the ball, taking five wickets at an average of 16, a strike rate of 12 and an economy of 8.

His bowling average and strike rate this season are the best he’s ever managed in the Indian T20 League and the powerful all-rounder will be hoping to keep things that way. Tasked with bowling during pressure situations, seven of his 10 overs so far have come at the death. Only Purple Cap holder Kagiso Rabada has taken more than Russell’s five wickets in the death overs and his record of 14 wickets against Punjab at an average of 21.43 and a strike rate of 12.36 should serve as a warning for KL Rahul’s men.




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*Andre Russell’s bowling record in the Indian T20 League

Ravi Bishnoi could be Punjab’s saviour

Only Mohammad Shami has taken more wickets (9) for Punjab than Ravi Bishnoi (7) this season. He’s picked up his wickets at an average of 26.71 and currently boasts an economy of 8.13 – the best among Punjab’s bowlers. Rashid Khan and Yuzvendra Chahal, both of whom have eight wickets to their name, are the only two spinners with more scalps than Bishnoi this season.

Unlike most leg spinners, Bishnoi has enjoyed bowling to left-handers, having accounted for three wickets at an average of 16, while also boasting an economy of 7.02, a strike rate of 13.66 and a dot ball percentage of 46.34. With the likes of Eoin Morgan and Sunil Narine in Kolkata’s top seven, if he can continue tormenting lefties. Furthermore, he will be eager to do well against right-handers as well, having failed to make as much of an impact against them.

Players to watch:

Punjab – Nicholas Pooran

Following a slow start to the tournament, Punjab’s hard-hitting left-hander has come into his own in their last few matches. He’s their third-highest scorer so far with 196 runs at an average of 39.20 and a stunning strike rate of 178.18 – the highest by any player in the team. Nicholas Pooran has also hit more sixes (15) than anyone in Punjab and will be looking to continue his fine form after making 77 in their last match.

Kolkata – Rahul Tripathi

After sitting out Kolkata’s first three matches and scoring a 16-ball 36 during their match against Delhi, Rahul Tripathi gave the world a glimpse of how devastating he can be as an opener in their last match. He scored 81 off 51 balls – Kolkata’s highest individual score this season – and looks poised to open the innings again. All his five half-centuries in the Indian T20 League has come as an opener and three of his last four innings at the top of the order have resulted in fifties.

Stats to watch out for:

1: Wickets Mohammad Shami needs to reach 50 Indian T20 League wickets

3: Morgan is three runs away from reaching 1000 runs in the Indian T20 League

4: Dismissals Dinesh Karthik needs to become the player with most dismissals against Punjab

26: Wickets Sunil Narine has taken against Punjab, his most against any opponent in the Indian T20 League

60: Shubman Gill is 60 runs away from reaching 1000 T20 runs

Writer’s pick:

Although Punjab may be due a win following four consecutive losses, a glance at Kolkata’s batting and bowling department at present makes it difficult to see that happening. The two-time champions seem to be coming into their own as the tournament progresses and the fact that their players seem to be more in form as well as confident than Punjab’s, hints at another win for the team from the City of Joy.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Sajjad Hussain