Two mercurial teams in a semi-final

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) won what was a virtual quarter-final against Sunrisers Hyderabad, to qualify for Qualifier 2—a semi-final now—against Mumbai Indians (MI). KKR’s suspect batting line-up didn’t gain much from the rain-hit contest which was played over two days. By Duckworth-Lewis method, Knight Riders had to chase down just 48 in six overs. They reached the target with four balls to spare but the equation and match situation were such that none of KKR’s batsmen, other than captain Gautam Gambhir, had a decent hit in the middle.

Knight Riders, though, will be happy that their bowlers did a splendid job and kept the Sunrisers to 128/7. Not only did the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Umesh Yadav produce top-class bowling performances but also have gotten used to and gained a fair idea of the eccentric pitch on offer at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Mumbai, on the other hand, will take on KKR with their confidence dented. They relinquished home advantage against Rising Pune Supergiant, to qualify directly for the final. At the death in the Pune innings, Mumbai’s bowlers uncharacteristically hemorrhaged runs and the batsmen, in a sub-par chase of 163, weren’t up to the task.

Another drawback for Mumbai going into qualifier 2 is that they face Kolkata at a venue which does not suit the Mumbai players and where Gambhir and co. can play to their strength. With the Bangalore pitch having behaved the way it has this IPL season—slow, low and tough for shot-making—expect KKR to deploy spin for a majority of the 20 overs.

MI vs KKR head-to-head and playoffs record

Mumbai beat Kolkata in the anti-penultimate league match this IPL season and lead the head-to-head record by 15-5.

Since its introduction in IPL 2011, Mumbai have a far greater exposure to playing in the playoffs and crunch matches essentially, though their record is poor. Knight Riders have featured in only five playoff contests since the 2011 season. But Gambhir and co. have done well while they’ve been in the playoffs.

Including Tuesday night’s qualifier 1, Mumbai have been part of eight playoff matches, winning just three of those (37.50% win record). KKR, though, have won 60% of their playoff appearances, winning three and losing two of the five they have been part of.

In 10 IPL seasons, only once before have Mumbai and Kolkata faced each other in a knockout match, which was the 2011 Eliminator, and the West Indian franchise were four-wicket victors on that night.




Qualifier 2: MI vs KKR playing XI

Despite their 20-run loss on Tuesday, Mumbai aren’t expected to make alterations to their playing XI. If anything, you might see Harbhajan Singh replace Karn Sharma and Mitchell Johnson come in place of Mitchell McClenaghan.

MI’s probable playing XI vs KKR: 1. Rohit Sharma (c), 2. Parthiv Patel (wk), 3. Lendl Simmons, 4. Ambati Rayudu, 5. Kieron Pollard, 6. Krunal Pandya, 7. Hardik Pandya, 8. Harbhajan Singh, 9. Mitchell Johnson/Mitchell McClenaghan, 10. Lasith Malinga, and 11. Jasprit Bumrah

Actual playing XI for Mumbai: 1. Rohit Sharma (c), 2. Parthiv Patel (wk), 3. Lendl Simmons, 4. Ambati Rayudu, 5. Kieron Pollard, 6. Krunal Pandya, 7. Hardik Pandya, 8. Karn Sharma, 9. Mitchell Johnson, 10. Lasith Malinga, and 11. Jasprit Bumrah

Manish Pandey, who sustained a rib injury in a practice session before the Eliminator and has lost his place in India’s Champions Trophy squad, will sit out qualifier 2 as well. Meaning, Ishank Jaggi is expected to keep his place in the side. KKR, having played only a curtailed match, are expected to retain their XI from Wednesday night.

KKR’s probable playing XI v MI: 1. Gautam Gambhir (c), 2. Chris Lynn, 3. Robin Uthappa (wk), 4. Ishank Jaggi, 5. Yusuf Pathan, 6. Suryakumar Yadav, 7. Sunil Narine, 8. Piyush Chawla, 9. Nathan Coulter-Nile, 10. Umesh Yadav, and 11. Trent Boult

Actual playing XI for Kolkata: 1. Gautam Gambhir (c), 2. Chris Lynn, 3. Robin Uthappa (wk), 4. Ishank Jaggi, 5. Ankit Singh Rajpoot, 6. Suryakumar Yadav, 7. Sunil Narine, 8. Piyush Chawla, 9. Nathan Coulter-Nile, 10. Umesh Yadav, and 11. Colin de Grandhomme

Prediction

As a contest, MI vs KKR is too close to call. You have two formidable teams who have most if not all bases covered and importantly, have flexibility in their line-ups. However, the recent form of Mumbai and Kolkata isn’t ideal and both haven’t even been close to their best. While Mumbai have won just two of their last five matches before qualifier 2, Kolkata have won just 1, which was the seven-wicket win by D/L method against Sunrisers. Therefore, although a no-brainer, the team who bring their A-game to the fore will make way their way into the final.




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