Punjab Kings v Kolkata Knight Riders: Back Kolkata to keep after touch

KL Rahul
Punjab's KL Rahul is aiming for the number one slot in the Orange Cap race

Two struggling sides meet in Ahmedabad and Matt Harris expects the Knight Riders to get their IPL 2021 campaign back on track...

"Morgan’s season can’t get any worse after he was run out without facing a ball against Rajasthan on Saturday."

Punjab Kings v Kolkata Knight Riders
Monday April 26th, 15:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket

Kings claw back the points

Punjab Kings badly needed the points last time out and their nine wicket win over Mumbai keeps them in touch with the playoffs. It's early days at IPL 14 but KL Rahul's side were in danger of being cut adrift following a slow start.

The skipper anchored the chase as he maintained his challenge for the Orange Cap as this season's leading run scorer. One issue for Punjab moving forward is their overreliance on Rahul in the batting department although the franchise should have limped over the line, even without his 60 from 52 balls.

Kings' bowling attack has also been underperforming and, while they restricted Mumbai to 131 in Chennai, they may receive a tougher examination in Ahmedabad.

Kolkata and their Captain Under Pressure

It was pointed out on commentary that, for all Eoin Morgan has achieved in the game at international level, he's yet to have an outstanding IPL. England's World Cup winning captain may have been a reluctant skipper in the second half of last season but he now has to drag his Knight Riders team away from the bottom of the table.

To do that, Morgan will need to lead by example with the bat and receive better support through the order. Now that Sunil Narine has replaced Shakib Al Hasan, it would be no surprise to see the West Indian resume his pinch hitting role at the start of Kolkata's innings.

KKR have just one win in five and desperate times will lead to desperate measures so Narine may just have a vital role to play with bat and ball.

Can Ahmedabad lift the batting stats?

All forms of cricket should still provide a genuine contest between bat and ball but the surfaces at IPL 14 have maybe offered too much for the bowlers. Ben Stokes is among the many who have been critical of this season's tracks so will we see more runs as the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad comes on board for the first time?

There aren't too many stats to go on in this respect: The venue has hosted just six T20is to date with an average first innings score of 174. That mark would be an improvement on this year's tournament as a whole but, as an unknown quantity in the IPL, it's likely to be a case of winning the toss, inserting the opposition and seeing what happens.

Kings edge tight match market

Neither team has exactly lit up IPL 14 to date and their combined performances are reflected in the match odds. Punjab Kings shade the market at 1.768/11 with Kolkata Knight Riders just behind at 1.794/5.

It's another tough one to call: KKR may breeze through the match if they can get KL Rahul early while they have a number of batsmen capable of taking the game away from Punjab. On that basis, I'm favouring the marginal outsiders although this is another contest where I'd prefer to back whoever chases.

Rahul steering Punjab to the playoffs

It's difficult to overstate the importance of KL Rahul to Punjab's tournament. In five matches, the skipper has scored 221 runs which is a considerable percentage of Kings' combined totals of 774.

This is the key wicket as far as Kolkata are concerned but, having taken the outsiders in the match result betting, I'll opt for the favourite in Punjab's top batsman market. Rahul is available at 12/5 on the sportsbook and should come in at a similar 3.412/5 when the exchange fills up. Other options include Chris Gayle at 3/1, Mayank Agarwal at 9/2 and Deepak Hooda at 15/2.

Captain Morgan to respond

Having highlighted Eoin Morgan's struggles with the bat, this would seem a good time for the skipper to top score for KKR. Morgan's season can't get any worse after he was run out without facing a ball against Rajasthan on Saturday.

If the low scores continue, Kolkata may be changing their captain mid-season for the second time in two years but he's unlikely to be out of touch for long. For those seeking a third pick, Eoin Morgan might have received better odds than his 4/1 on the sportsbook and we could see a later improvement on the exchange. Nitish Rana will start as favourite and he's currently at 10/3 on the sportsbook.

KKR may breeze through the match if they can get KL Rahul early

Matt Harris' IPL P/L

Staked: 10pts
Returns: 4.77pts
P/L: - 5.23pts

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