KL Rahul will be key for Kings XI Punjab as they take on Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday.(PTI)
KL Rahul will be key for Kings XI Punjab as they take on Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 on Friday.(PTI)

IPL 2018: Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders seek momentum in race for play-offs

Kings XI Punjab will be aiming to consolidate their position in the top-3 of the Indian Premier League (IPL) points table when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders in Indore on Saturday
Hindustan Times, Indore | By Sidharth Gulati
UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2018 07:03 PM IST

Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will look to regain their lost touch when the two sides clash in the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Holkar Stadium in Indore on Saturday.

With less than 15 games left in IPL 2018 ahead of the play-offs, the focus for teams now is to gain, and then sustain momentum heading into the business end of the tournament. So far, only Sunrisers Hyderabad have shown the ‘title-winning form’ and with nine victories from 11 matches, they are already through to the playoffs.

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KXIP won five of their first six matches but have found the going tough since returning from a week-long break. They have lost three of their last four matches but are in a better position as compared to KKR, who need to win their remaining three games to seal a place in the last four.

KKR bowling – a big worry

The Knights have conceded more than 160 in eight of their 11 games this season. Their first encounter against KXIP this year turned out to be a nightmare as Chris Gayle and KL Rahul smashed 116 inside 10 overs to help their team register a nine-wicket win in a rain-curtailed match at the Eden Gardens.

With Mitchell Starc ruled out before the start of the tournament due to stress fracture in his right leg, KKR had to rely on Mitchell Johnson and Tom Curran – both of whom have been unimpressive, going for more than 10 per over. R Vinay Kumar was very expensive in the first couple of games and had to be left out.

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Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, supposed to be Dinesh Karthik’s trumpcard, has taken just eight wickets at an average of over 35. Piyush Chawla has also failed to make an impact. The 19-year-old pacer Shivam Mavi has shown promise but has picked just three wickets in seven games. Sunil Narine, however, has been good with 13 wickets and has given away runs at a miserly economy rate of 7.51.

The 102-run loss to Mumbai Indians in their previous game has not only pushed KKR out of top four, but has also affected their net run-rate. So far, they have won five games and lost six.

Too much pressure on Gayle, Rahul

Despite making changes, KXIP’s middle-order has failed to get going. Manoj Tiwary, who replaced Yuvraj Singh against Rajasthan Royals, managed just seven as his side suffered a 15-run defeat at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium earlier this week.

Axar Patel’s promotion also didn’t help while surprisingly; a powerful hitter like Marcus Stoinis is coming too low down the order.

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Fair to say, it’s harsh on openers Chris Gayle and KL Rahul to get the job done every time. But KXIP coach Brad Hodge is confident the middle-order will come good in the remaining matches.

“Everyone in the middle-order is hitting the ball well. Matter of time before they (Yuvraj, Axar, and Manoj) strike form,” said Hodge at the pre-match conference on Friday.

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