IPL 2019: Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders locked in battle for survival

Needing to win both their remaining Indian Premier League (IPL 2019) matches, these teams are clutching at the ‘positives’ from the string of losses

KXIP’s poor reserve-strength stood exposed once injuries hit the team.   -  afp

After blowing away the advantage of starting their Indian Premier League campaigns well, Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders now find themselves looking for a desperate win to stay alive in the race for the playoffs.

Needing to win both their remaining matches, these teams are clutching at the ‘positives’ from the string of losses. Notwithstanding some individual performances, their collective failures, some of them on the threshold of victory, has left them in an exasperated state.

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Locked at 10 points, both have charted a similar course. KXIP won four of its first six matches and thereafter, just one out of the next six.

KKR won four of the five matches, lost six in a row before regaining some confidence with the conquest of Mumbai Indians.

After Friday’s face-off, KXIP will clash with Chennai Super Kings, while KKR takes on host Mumbai Indians, in the doubleheader on Sunday.

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Self-doubt has hurt these teams in varying degrees. Some of the on-field decisions of the rival skippers — Tamil Nadu teammates R. Ashwin and Dinesh Karthik — have backfired. Both teams have struggled with their ‘death-over’ bowling.

KXIP’s poor reserve-strength stood exposed once injuries hit the team. Barring K.L. Rahul, Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal in batting and Ashwin, Mohammad Shami and M. Ashwin in bowling, Kings XI clearly is looking at non-performing assets.

Allrounder Sam Curran, whose sensational hat-trick against Delhi Capitals here brought him praise from all quarters, Ankit Rajpoot, Andrew Tye, Hardus Viljoen and, more recently, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman have all proved ineffective, by turns. Mandeep Singh, the ‘finisher’, was dropped for the last match.

Sarfaraz Khan, who last played against RCB on April 13, has made way for an additional bowler in the playing XI. In five outings, Nicholas Pooran, too, has not done justice to his reputation.

KKR is saddled with problems, in spite of Andre Russell’s all-round contribution (486 runs and 10 wickets). Surprisingly, it took too long for the think-tank to promote the just-turned-31 Jamaican game-changer in the batting order.

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Bowling woes

Two other overseas players, Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine have played to expectations. Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill, Robin Uthappa and Piyush Chawla have all had their moments. But, the team has paid heavily for lacking quality bowling options.

If KXIP draws confidence from playing at home, KKR has reasons to feel rejuvenated after its comprehensive win over MI.

It’s a battle for survival for the contestants.

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