After letting off Gujarat Lions go away with an easy win in their last fixture two days ago, Kings XI Punjab on Tuesday will face prolific Kolkata Knight Riders in 49th fixture of Indian Premier League (IPL) slated to be played at IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali.

Kings XI Punjab will be playing in front of their home crowd in a must-win game to keep their hopes alive to make it to the playoffs of the tenth edition of the IPL.

Contrary the Kolkata Knight Riders are back to their destructive best once again after demolishing Royal Challengers — cruised to 6 wickets win — in Bengaluru. Gambhir led Riders have already qualified for the playoffs and are now aiming to cement their place for the top slots before the final elimination begins.

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Kings XI Punjab will be fresh with the self-destruction they suffered on Sunday by the Gujarat Lions — lost despite posting 189 batting first in Mohali.

Coach Virender Sehwag and Captain Glenn Maxwell suffered another blow as they will be playing without the services of Hashim Amla (420 runs in 10 matches; 2 centuries) and David Miller — both having left the Punjab camp for their national duties.

For the uninitiated, KXIP has already bid farewell to Eoin Morgan (Back to England) and Marcus Stoinis who was ruled out of the IPL following a shoulder injury.

The departure of their key players means that the skipper Maxwell will have to take added responsibility along with Shaun Marsh and Manan Vohra is most likely to fill the shoes of South African talisman Hashim Amla at the top of the order.

A lot will also rely on how Martin Guptill powers in the Punjab inning at the start. He will have to bat as per a plan and contain the onslaught with calculated risks.

There is no easy way to say that Punjab has their back against the wall and they have everything to lose from today’s clash. A win today will keep their hopes alive for the playoffs but KXIP will still have to win the next two matches as well — against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rising Pune Supergiant.

Sehwag and Maxwell are aware that they still have just enough firepower in their batting line-up; it’s the inconsistent bowling that makes them really vulnerable.

Playing against the Knight Riders is like a walk tightrope walk and any error will be penalised heavily.

Maxwell will have to reshuffle the playing XI and try adding to their bowling arsenal. The stage is ideal for Darren Sammy to come back to the core. The West Indian can play big shots batting down the order and chip essential overs in the middle of the inning.

KXIP’s Sandeep Sharma — 16 wickets in 10 matches— and Axar Patel — 13 wickets in 11 matches — are two bright stars among the ordinary looking bowling attack. Both of them will have to step up and provide initial breakthrough against KKR before Mohit Sharma and Natarajan try to contain the leakage of runs during the middle of the inning.

With no room for error, this might just be the kind of situation that will bring the best out of KXIP.

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Speaking of the opponents, Kolkata Knight Riders still is the most feared team in this year’s IPL season.

Knight Riders come into this game with their chins up after getting back to the winning days — beat Royal Challengers by 6 wickets.

Kolkata looks a very settled side and is a top contender for the coveted IPL 2017 trophy.

KKR at the moment has the best opening pair with the likes of fit Chris Lynn and the surprise trump card in Sunil Narine.

Narine got his ticket to open the KKR innings after Chris Lynn suffered an injury in their second match of the IPL against Mumbai Indians and what a revelation he been since — 196 runs in 12 runs.

The pinch hitter from Trident has been very instrumental in providing quick starts to Knight Riders which are then cashed by Gautam Gambhir and unit in the later part of the inning.

Besides that the skipper himself has been in terrific form — 425 runs in 12 matches — along with Robin Uthappa — 384 runs in 10 matches — who is most likely to come back to playing XI after suffering an injury.

The middle order of KKR is led by Manish Pandey — 345 runs in 12 matches — as he holds the match together before Yusuf Pathan can come and launch the onslaught whenever required.

Another major boost that would have made Coach Jacques Kallis very happy is that fact that KKR no more looks like a team dependent on their spin attack to get wickets or contain opposition run flow.

Knight Riders speedsters Umesh Yadav — 13 wickets in 10 matches — and Nathan Coulter-Nile (expected to be injury free tonight)— 11 wickets in 6 matches — have bowled very disciplined attack and troubled the opponents on a regular basis.

Kolkata seems ready to be the spoilsport for Kings XI Punjab in tonight’s game and will not spill any freebies around in Mohali.

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Kolkata Knight Riders have defeated Kings XI Punjab in the last eight IPL fixtures.

Playing against the odds and in front of the home crowd might just be the desperate times that might help KXIP gets past the KKR juggernaut at IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali.

First Published | 9 May 2017 5:42 PM
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