Big picture

Kings XI Punjab should've won all three so far. They've beaten two sides comprehensively, but have themselves (and Andre Russell) to blame for losing the other. But they like playing in Mohali, where their batsmen can trust the surface and their spinners have the ability to make full use of the wide-square boundaries. They'll now chase their sixth-straight win at home.

But they've been on this kind of high before. Last season, they won five of their first six games before their campaign came to a grinding halt. R Ashwin wants them to approach the tournament like a marathon. What that means in terms of their team combination is yet to be seen.

Delhi will be boosted by their scrappy Super Over win against Knight Riders, though. Fine, it's the kind of win that gives you an unparalleled rush but it also allows you to reflect on the weaknesses. They need to bowl smarter after reducing their opponents to scores like 61 for 5 and the team is not yet sure of their best XI.

Their enviable Indian top-order, though, matches each Kings XI batsman player for player, so it's likely that the contest will be decided by which team bowls better on a surface with the second-highest strike-rate for batsmen since IPL 2017.

Likely XIs

Kings XI Punjab: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 KL Rahul (wk), 3 Mayank Agarwal, 4 David Miller, 5 Sarfaraz Khan, 6 Mandeep Singh, 7 R Ashwin (capt), 8 Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman, 9 M Ashwin, 10 Ankit Rajpoot/Mohammed Shami 11 Andrew Tye

Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 4 Colin Ingram, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Hanuma Vihari, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Amit Mishra/Axar Patel, 10 Sandeep Lamichhane, 11 Kagiso Rabada

Strategy Punt

  • Kings XI should bowl more spin in the Powerplay. Before Shaw's 99 against Knight Riders, he was out to spin in five of his last eight IPL games, scoring at a strike-rate of 130 and an average of only 14.60. But it's a Catch-22 for Kings XI. Shaw's been out to all kind of bowlers, but not right-arm offspin. Maybe legspinner Murugan should be the Ashwin who bowls to him.
  • Ankit Rajpoot could solve Kings XI's death-overs blues. In the 12 games that Kings XI have played without Rajpoot, their economy in between overs 15-20 has been 11.20. In the four games that Rajpoot has been part of the XI, their last five overs' economy has been only 7.90.
  • Don't bowl Amit Mishra to the Kings XI opening pair. KL Rahul scores at a strike-rate of 276.50 against him, Chris Gayle goes at 186.70 and Mishra has never dismissed either batsmen. But it will be a conundrum for Iyer on how long Mishra can be held back. Gayle and Rahul have scored six of their eight fifty-plus stands at home, and average 53.8 runs per partnership in Mohali.
  • Stats that matter

    • Kings XI Punjab win 70% of their games when R Ashwin's economy is less than 8.50.
    • Since IPL 2015, ten of the 14 games at Mohali have been won by teams batting first.
    • Since IPL 2016, Shreyas Iyer has the second-biggest difference in strike-rates between his first 20 balls and the rest of his innings. His average-strike in the first 20 balls is 110.90, but after that, it's a whopping 167.90. The strike-rate difference of 57 is more than Sunil Narine, Shane Watson, and even MS Dhoni.
    • Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo