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IPL 2021: KKR take on defending champs MI for top-4 spot

IPL 2021: KKR take on defending champs MI for top-4 spot

By K Aditya
Abu Dhabi, Sep 22 (UNI) Defending champions Mumbai Indians will be aiming to return to winning ways with skipper Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya expected to be back among their ranks in match 34 of IPL 2021 against Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi. The job will be easier said than done given how KKR thrashed third-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday at the same venue.
Stakes are high for the Kolkata outfit as well as a win on the day will certainly take them beyond MI in the points table and place them inside the play-off qualification zone.
And there couldn't be a better time for the Eoin Morgan-led side to make it happen as MI are yet to get their act together. In what could be called an anomaly of a season for Mumbai, who could slip into bottom four with another loss, dependable names like Kieron Pollard (183 runs in eight games) Suryakumar Yadav (176 runs) Quinton de Kock (172 runs in seven matches), Ishan Kishan (84 runs in six matches) and Hardik Pandya (52 runs in seven matches) have been a pale shadow of batsmen they were last season.
On top of that, the team will be facing a selection dilemma with both skipper Rohit Sharma (the team's top scorer with 250 runs) and all-rounder Hardik Pandya are expected to return. While Anmolpreet Singh (16 runs in the last match) is set to sit out for the captain, middle-order batsman Saurabh Tiwary (50 in last match) may have to make space for Hardik.
And as the Abu Dabhi pitch is expected to provide early swing for pacers, MI strike bowlers Trent Boult (2/35 vs CSK) and Jasprit Bumrah (2/33) will aim to run through the KKR top-order as they did against CSK, who were reduced to 27/4 at one stage.
Their spinners Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya, however, didn't get much help from the pitch in the first innings with the latter proving costly by conceding 27 runs in 2 overs, suggesting spinners have to think out of the box or keep the bowl close to wickets.
Kolkata Knight Riders, on the other hand, are feeling bullish after RCB's demolition and will be aiming to hit a vulnerable MI hard. Captain Eoin Morgan won't like to mess with the new opening combination of Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer, with the latter scoring a 41 not out on his debut. Gill too got his mojo back with a 48-run innings in a quick run-chase and has promised not to miss his half-century next time.
The short-run chase also meant that KKR middle-order worries are still there with question marks over the forms of Nitish Rana (201 runs in eight games), Rahul Tripathi (187), Andre Russell (163 runs) Dinesh Karthik (123), Morgan (92) among others.
The same objection doesn't remain with their bowling with the likes of Varun Chakravarthy (3/13) and Andre Russell (3/9) delivering the good with the ball in the last match. Pacer Prasidh Krishna also proved lethal by claiming the big scalp of Virat Kohli while Lockie Ferguson (2/24) showed KKR are not going to miss their Aussie pacer Pat Cummins.
Despite having the momentum in their favour, KKR still have to match the hunger they showed in the last game because a team with quality like Mumbai Indians won't be bullied for long.

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