A now-confident Kings XI Punjab will face a tough challenge when they take on the upbeat Kolkata Knight Riders in an IPL 2016 match at Mohali. Punjab go into the match on a high, having shocked MS Dhoni's Rising Pune Supergiants in their previous encounter. The victory was important as it came against the backdrop of their losses to Gujarat Lions by five wickets, and Delhi Daredevils by eight wickets. Kolkata, on the other hand, go into the contest having beaten Sunrisers Hyderabad with ease. Earlier, there had thrashed Delhi Daredevils as well, and their one loss in the event came against Mumbai Indians.
On a Mohali track that is not expected to give much assistance, the bowlers from both teams could be tested out. Thus, the batsmen will have a tough task as well, as any score may not prove to be big enough. After disappointing in the first two matches for Punjab, openers Murali Vijay and Manan Vohra came to the party against Pune, scoring well-compiled fifties. Glenn Maxwell, the big show, also got some runs under his belt. But, Punjab will be expecting more out of skipper David Miller, who hasn't hit form as yet, and Shaun Marsh as well.
In the bowling, Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma came up with excellent bowling efforts to restrict Pune in the previous match. They will be keen to continue their good work. Kyle Abbott however has been going for a few runs, and he will need to pull up his socks a bit. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel also hasn't fired, so there are definitely areas where Punjab can improve. The bowlers will have to lift their game, for Kolkata have a strong batting line-up.
KKR will be extremely pleased with how their batsmen are shaping up. Skipper Gautam Gambhir has led from the front with the bat. His 90 was instrumental in the team's triumph over Sunrisers, and with 192 runs going into the Punjab encounter, he is now the Orange Cap holder. One of the reasons why Kolkata have tasted early success this season has been because of the performance of their top order. Apart from Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey also have been among the runs.
In the bowling department, Kolkata would be pleased with the manner in which Umesh Yadav bowled against Sunrisers in the previous game, especially after his poor efforts in the earlier matches. Morne Morkel also was among the wickets. In tandem, the duo form a good opening pair. Andre Russell, apart from the Mumbai, clash has been resourceful with the ball. Kolkata will also be pondering of a toss up between Brad Hogg and Sunil Narine for the main spinner's slot. That is always a good problem to have.
-- By A Cricket Analyst