Kings XI, KKR campaigns wobbling after strong starts

Kings XI's top-heaviness: pro or con? (5:47)

Will Saturday's game come down to KKR's spinners v Kings XI's openers? Deep Dasgupta and Brad Hogg think so (5:47)

Big Picture

In recent seasons, Kolkata Knight Riders have made a habit of finishing their league campaigns poorly. In 2015, they fell off the top four with defeats in their last two group matches, while they ended in fourth place rather than in the top two in both 2016 and 2017 with defeats in two of their last three games.

This season, the poor finish might be starting even earlier. On May 3, KKR had moved to third place with a confident chase against Chennai Super Kings. Since then, however, they have lost two in a row, both times to Mumbai Indians, and have dropped out of the top four.

Kings XI Punjab are currently in third place, but are also experiencing a downturn. Having won five of their first six games, they have lost three of their last four.

Both teams have clearly defined problem areas to sort out. In Kings XI's case, it's an unsettled middle order brimming with out-of-form players, which has often undone the good work of Chris Gayle and KL Rahul at the top of the order. This explains why they have the second-best Powerplay run rate of all teams this season and the second-worst run rate in the middle and end overs.

KKR, meanwhile, have had a terrible season in terms of fast bowling, and understandably so. Mitchell Starc and Kamlesh Nagarkoti are out of the tournament, Mitchell Johnson and Tom Curran haven't come anywhere near making up for Starc's absence, Andre Russell has been underbowled to preserve his hamstrings, and Shivam Mavi and Prasidh Krishna lack top-level experience. Understandably enough, they have the worst fast-bowling economy rate (10.54) and average (39.82) of all teams this season.

With only one team - Sunrisers Hyderabad - having confirmed a playoff spot so far, and no team out of contention just yet, neither Kings XI nor KKR can afford too many more slip-ups.

In the news

Pace bowler Shivam Mavi missed both of KKR's matches against Mumbai Indians with a finger injury sustained in the game against Chennai Super Kings, while an unspecified injury kept batsman Shubman Gill out of their home game against Mumbai. KKR will hope one or both of them are fit to take the field on Saturday.

Previous meeting

Chris Lynn's 41-ball 74 propelled KKR to 191 in their 20 overs, before Rahul and Gayle outdid him as Kings XI easily chased down a revised target of 125 in 13 overs.

Likely XIs

Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (wk), 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Karun Nair, 4 Akshdeep Nath, 5 Manoj Tiwary, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin (capt), 9 AJ Tye, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Sunil Narine, 2 Chris Lynn, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Dinesh Karthik (capt & wk), 6 Andre Russell, 7 Rinku Singh/Shubman Gill, 8 Tom Curran, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Prasidh Krishna/Shivam Mavi

Strategy punt

Both Lynn (strike rate of 110.4) and Russell (138.3) have scored far more slowly against spin than pace in T20s since 2015. Expect R Ashwin to be aware of this fact, and for him to distribute his and Mujeeb Ur Rahman's overs accordingly during the course of KKR's innings.

Should KKR use Sunil Narine with the new ball? Narine has dismissed Chris Gayle five times in 141 balls in all T20s, while only conceding 123 runs. He has, however, had a less happy time against KL Rahul, conceding 77 in 36 balls while only dismissing him once.

Stats that matter

  • KKR have a 14-8 record against Kings XI overall. The last two meetings, however, have gone Kings XI's way.

  • Often this season, Karun Nair has looked good without really translating it into something substantial on the scorecard. The numbers back this up, in a way. He has rattled along at 148.6 against pace, but fallen to it eight times in 105 balls. He has only fallen once in 81 balls to spin, but managed a strike rate of only 107.4.

  • In the first five matches of the season, Kings XI scored at 10.7 per over in the Powerplay, and averaged 64.0 per wicket in that phase. In their last five matches, however, they have only scored 7.0 per over while averaging 30.1. While they won four out of their first five matches, they've only won two of their next five.

  • KKR have taken only nine Powerplay wickets - the fewest of any team this season - in 11 games, and have the second-worst economy rate (9.20) of all teams in this phase. Kings XI have the joint-most Powerplay wickets of all teams (18), and have the second-best economy rate (7.68) in this phase.

Fantasy pick

Does your fantasy site allow you to make changes to your team after the toss? If so, read carefully.

This season, Dinesh Karthik has been exceptional in chases, scoring 204 runs at an average of 102.00 and a strike rate of 160.63. He has been less good while batting first, scoring 117 at 29.25 and 130.00. The reverse is true for Russell. He has scored 140 runs at an average of 49.33 and a strike rate of 246.67 while batting first, and 70 at 14.00 and 125.00 while chasing.

If you're torn about including either of them in your team, wait until the toss before deciding.