Kings XI Punjab started off their IPL 2019 on a winning note as they defeated Rajasthan Royals by 14 runs on March 25. But, how the game panned out was hardly on anyone's mind as R Ashwin mankading Jos Buttler remained the talking point after the game and the next day as well.
Despite all the hullabaloo over the form of dismissal and the 'spirit of cricket' discussions, the bottom line remains that Punjab won the opening game and will now head to Eden Gardens to face a rampaging Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday (March 27) who too had a solid start to their season with a win.
Eden Gardens has been Kolkata's den right from the start of the IPL and Punjab will have to put their best foot forward to topple the hosts. Mujeeb ur Rahman and captain Ravichandran Ashwin will hold key for the visitors at the Eden where the surface is expected to turn right from the outset. Both spinners are one of the best in the business and can cause problems for the Dinesh Karthik-led side. They have had a good start to their season too. While Mujeeb returned 2/31 against Rajasthan, Ashwin produced an economical spell of 1/20 in his four overs.
On the batting front, Chris Gayle was his usual destructive self as he slammed 79 in 47 deliveries and will fancy his chances even more on the Eden surface where he has a terrific record. While KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal failed to fire, Sarfaraz Khan came out as a surprise package during his 46* which came off just 29 balls and helped his side go past the 180-run mark.
Punjab have a good all-round unit and with two top-quality spinners at their disposal are bound to keep the hosts on their toes.
Kolkata, on the other hand, will be brimming with confidence after a hard-fought victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in their tournament opener. The home side all but looked done and dusted in that game before a stunning Andre Russell onslaught got them over the line in the very last over.
It's wins like these that bring the side together and Kolkata now will certainly wish to carry the momentum through into the coming games.
The spin troika of Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla will once be the trump card. The trio did not have the best of times in the opening game where they were taken to the cleaners by a raring David Warner. Kolkata have always relied very heavily on their spin department and Karthik will hope the three put up a much better effort come Wednesday. However, the injury status of Narine remains unclear. He injured his hand while trying to stop a boundary which prevented him to finish his full quota of overs.
They will have to be wary of a certain Mr. Gayle who just seems to be getting better with age. He knows the Eden surface well and his wicket is one which the hosts will be aiming for nice and early.
Punjab have had their morals questioned in the last two days and it is unlikely the Buttler-Ashwin Mankad debate is dying down anytime soon. What the visitors will want to do though is play tough, hard cricket and try to shut all the background noise.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Andre Russell: The bulky hard-hitting all-rounder just looked in his elements right from the get-go against Hyderabad. He came with his side needing a mountain of runs and ended up smashing 49* off just 19 balls to run the tide in Kolkata's favour. Russell has been laid low with injuries in recent times and will want to have a good IPL that will help him stake claim for a place in the West Indies World Cup squad.
Chris Gayle: The 'Universe Boss' never ceases to amaze. Approaching 40, Gayle still remains that potent force that he has always has been as was on display in the opening game against Rajasthan where he bludgeoned 79 in just 47 balls. He has been in excellent touch over the last few months and will be a key wicket as far as KKR are concerned.
TEAM NEWS/AVAILABILITY UPDATES
Kolkata: Sunil Narine was struck fiercely on his right hand while trying to save a four and was immediately taken off the field. He could not complete his full quota of overs and later did not come out to bat as well. If Narine is unable to recover in time, Kolkata might look to give mystery spinner KC Cariappa a go.
Punjab: There was no Karun Nair or Andrew Tye for Punjab in the opening game which certainly raised some eyebrows. Sarfaraz Khan did do well in the opportunity he got but the same can't be said about Sam Curran. The left-arm pacer was carted for 52 runs in his four overs and though he did manage to pick up two wickets at no stage did Curran look threatening. He might be replaced by Tye for the second encounter while there are chances David Miller might also come in for Nicholas Pooran.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (w/c), Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Prasidh Krishna, Sunil Narine/KC Cariappa
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh, Nicholas Pooran/David Miller, R Ashwin (c), Sam Curran/Andrew Tye, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Ankit Rajpoot, Mohammed Shami.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Dinesh Karthik(w/c), Robin Uthappa, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, Shubman Gill, Rinku Singh, Nikhil Naik, Joe Denly, Shrikant Mundhe, Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell, KC Cariappa, Nitish Rana, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson, Harry Gurney, Yarra Prithviraj
Kings XI Punjab: Ravichandran Ashwin(capt), Lokesh Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, David Miller, Mandeep Singh, Simran Singh, Nicholas Pooran, Sarfaraz Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Murugan Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Andrew Tye, Ankit Rajpoot, Hardus Viljoen, Arshdeep Singh, Moises Henriques, Varun Chakravarthy, Sam Curran, Darshan Nalkande, Agnivesh Ayachi, Harpreet Brar