Kings XI Punjab ensured that they reached the top of the table even after a couple of hiccups against Kolkata and Mumbai. They gained the most number of wins for any IPL team in a single season. For a long while, it looked like Punjab and Chennai will play Qualifier 1 but a late surge by Kolkata changed the equation as they finished on second spot. Punjab cannot take Kolkata light as they have been on a roll with seven wins in the last seven matches. Playing a lot of matches at home certainly helped Kolkata to be able to win so many matches. The best thing for KKR is that the first qualifier is going to be played at Kolkata.
Glenn Maxwell entertained one and all in the early part of the tournament but he slowly started to fade away and was even dropped by Punjab in one of the matches. Suddenly, Punjab lost a couple of matches to Mumbai and Kolkata and things were looking a little different. However, Punjab came back well to beat Rajasthan and Delhi and is looking confident again. Maxwell has been dismissed by leg spinners in the last few matches so that is still one of concerns for Punjab. They need Maxwell to fire if Sehwag goes out cheaply at the start of the innings.
Punjab also experimented with Hendricks and rested Mitchell Johnson but he will be the strike bowler for the team in the remaining matches. Akshar Patel is the spin all-rounder and he will come into the picture as well since the pitch as Kolkata aids the spinners. Karanveer Singh has also emerged as a good leg spinner and his services will be once again needed in the Qualifier 1. Punjab batsmen will have to support their bowlers by playing sensibly as a low score will be difficult to defend against the in-form Kolkata batsmen.
Kolkata huffed and puffed their way in the initial stages but got on a great roll to win seven matches on the trot. Robin Uthappa is looking extremely dangerous and Yusuf Pathan came up with a blazing knock against Hyderabad to proper his team to the second spot in the points table. Playing the Qualifier 1 at home has definitely shifted the balance in favor of KKR as they have an all-round side suited to the conditions. The magic of Sunil Narine is still working so he will cause a lot of problems for the Punjab batsmen who like the ball to come on to the bat. A good haul by Narine will dent the chances of Punjab big time so they need to be weary. Kolkata is the clear favorite in this match and they look all set to enter the final.
Kolkata Knight Riders – 1.76 @ 32Red