IPL 2017: Anxious for playoff berth, Kings XI Punjab face Kolkata Knight Riders | ipl 2017 | Hindustan Times
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IPL 2017: Anxious for playoff berth, Kings XI Punjab face Kolkata Knight Riders

Kings XI Punjab face a daunting prospect of Sunil Narine’s explosive batting at the top as they aim to stay in the play-offs against former champions Kolkata Knight Riders in a vital IPL 2017 clash.

ipl 2017 Updated: May 08, 2017 19:32 IST
Ashutosh Sharma
Sunil Narine blasted a 15-ball fifty to put Kolkata Knight Riders one step closer to the play-offs and he will once again be the key in the clash against Kings XI Punjab.
Sunil Narine blasted a 15-ball fifty to put Kolkata Knight Riders one step closer to the play-offs and he will once again be the key in the clash against Kings XI Punjab.(PTI)

As Kings XI Punjab took the field for their Indian Premier League (IPL) match against Gujarat Lions on Sunday, the players briefly watched Sunil Narine on their dressing room TV as he guided Kolkata Knight Riders to an easy win against Royal Challengers Bangalore. (IPL 2017 Full Coverage)

Narine’s 17-ball 54 demolished the hapless RCB as the six-wicket win has put Kolkata Knight Riders on the cusp of a playoff berth. However, Kings XI Punjab, who must win all three remaining matches, now know what’s coming their way on Tuesday.

The two-time former IPL champions have been a force to reckon with this season too with players putting in big performances when the team needed it most. Leading the way is skipper Gautam Gambhir, who despite being among runs for so long at domestic level and IPL, was overlooked for the Champions Trophy squad.

For Kings XI Punjab, who play their last two matches against Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiant, the equation for a playoff berth is complicated. Not only do they need to win all their matches, they also need holders Sunrisers Hyderabad to lose at least one.

Kings XI Punjab need to win their remaining three games if they are to stay in contention for the play-offs. (AFP)

KXIP lack consistency

After KXIP’s defeat on Sunday against Gujarat Lions, Hashim Amla, who saw his century go in vain for the second time this IPL, was clear about one thing, KXIP must find consistency. “We all watched a little bit of the KKR match. It happens in T20 cricket. You play attacking cricket and sometime it falls in the gaps. We have had some great games so we just need to find consistency and get some runs on board. We are still in the competition and can cause a few upsets here and there and get in the final four,” said the South Africa batsman, who along with David Miller is leaving IPL for a three-match ODI series against hosts England from May 24 to build up for the Champions Trophy.

KKR bounce back

Kolkata Knight Riders also suffered a blip in form, losing back-to-back games against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rising Pune Supergiant. But Gambhir’s team are back on track after Sunday’s win.

KKR have sprung a surprise by using Narine as pinch-hitter at the top and the match-winning spinner has been a revelation at the top. On Sunday, he not only scored IPL’s joint-fastest fifty, off 15 balls, he also took two wickets. Kings XI Punjab bowlers, who have failed to defend 190 twice, will have to find a way to counter this.

Sunday night’s defeat of KXIP saw the bowlers and fielders allowing Gujarat Lions to chase an imposing target. They can’t afford that to happen against Kolkata Knight Riders. Inconsistency has been the bane for Kings XI Punjab this season, and on Tuesday they need to check all three boxes—batting, bowling and fielding—if they are to stay in the hunt for a playoff berth.