A struggling Punjab Kings, two wins and two losses after four games, will look to turn the tide when it takes on a buoyant Lucknow Super Giants, second in the points table, at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Saturday.
A side brimming with all-rounders, Super Giants have depth in batting and bowling with the likes of Marcus Stoinis, Krunal Pandya and Deepak Hooda in the XI.
The form of pacer Avesh Khan will be a concern for LSG. He has three wickets in as many games at an economy rate of 11. However, Mark Wood’s fiery form — he is second in the Purple Cap race — with the ball will soothe captain KL Rahul’s nerves.
On the other hand, Punjab has plenty to ponder. T20 results are often influenced by how teams handle the middle overs, a phase of play where the Kings have faltered in the last two games. The presence of power-hitter Liam Livingstone can help shake off the kind of inertia that had set in between overs 7 and 16 against the Gujarat Titans — PBKS made 52 in the PowerPlay but reached 100 in the 16th over. However, the English allrounder is unlikely to play against Lucknow after skipper Shikhar Dhawan confirmed that Livingstone pulled a muscle at Punjab Kings training before the GT game and is likely to be available in another “3-4 days”.
But PBKS will take heart from the fact that its bowlers were able to turn, what looked like an easy chase for GT, into a last-over thriller. But it continues to be the side with the worst economy rate at the death (13.11) and is up against a team, in which Nicholas Pooran walked out with the Super Giants needing 114 from 56 balls in pursuit of 213 against RCB and smashed a 19-ball 62 with seven sixes and four fours.
Pooran has been in great form, but Kagiso Rabada can prove to be a challenging matchup. In 31 balls to Pooran, he has conceded 39 and got him out twice.
Another key element which does leap out from the LSG batting is the distribution of left-handers through the top six, with Kyle Mayers (opening the batting) there apart from Krunal at No.4 and Pooran at No. 6. It poses an interesting quandary for the Kings, who could use Rahul Chahar as Impact Player. Krunal and Pooran can be flexible with their batting position and hence can take down the SLA spin of Harpreet Brar and the leg spin of Chahar.
Meanwhile, LSG has been smart in using its home conditions. Against Delhi Capitals, it played on a red-soil surface and unleashed Mark Wood. It then dished out a black-soil surface against a right-hand-heavy SRH and played its troika of spinners. Hence, the choice of playing surface will be of much interest.