The Kings XI Punjab might still be wondering what hit them after the Rajasthan Royals pulled off the most madcap of heists against them. The Mumbai Indians might still be pondering the what-ifs after a Super Over defeat to the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
They will have to put the wondering and pondering away quickly, though, because the IPL carousel is relentless and remorseless. The Mumbai Indians meet the Kings XI on Thursday in Abu Dhabi, the home ground for the former and a first-time venue for the latter this season.
These are two of the best batting line-ups in the IPL, but there are gaps in both bowling attacks. The Kings XI are possibly the worst death-overs attack in the tournament, while the Mumbai Indians, for whom Hardik Pandya is more or less just a specialist batsman after undergoing back surgery, often end up using only five bowlers, which presents teams a greater chance of using pre-planned match-ups against them.
This meeting comes at a stage when every point seems to matter more than ever. It's still early days, but the signs point to this being one of the most open seasons in recent times, particularly after the Sunrisers Hyderabad got their first points on Tuesday with a brilliantly controlled performance against the Delhi Capitals. The Mumbai Indians and the Kings XI both seem like strong contenders to make the playoffs this season, but who doesn't?
In the news
It's not yet clear if Nathan Coulter-Nile has recovered from the side strain that has kept him out of the Mumbai Indians' XI so far. If he has, he could come in for James Pattinson and shore up the lower-order batting.
Mumbai Indians: 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 James Pattinson/Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.
Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (capt & wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Karun Nair, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 James Neesham, 7 Sarfaraz Khan, 8 Ravi Bishnoi, 9 M Ashwin, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Mohammed Shami.
Among those who have sent down at least 12 balls in the death (16-20) overs in the IPL this season, three of the four highest economy rates belong to Kings XI bowlers - Chris Jordan (21.50), Sheldon Cottrell (16.00) and Mohammed Shami (15.50). Jordan hasn't featured since the Kings XI's season-opener against the Capitals, but Cottrell has played all three of their matches, and given them regular wickets with the new ball. How do you solve such a problem? One possible change they could make is to bring in the mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman for Cottrell, and play one of the three uncapped Indian fast bowlers in their squad - Arshdeep Singh (who played three games last season), Ishan Porel or Darshan Nalkande - in place of M Ashwin, their second Indian spinner. Porel is among the most highly rated young quicks in Indian domestic cricket, while both Singh and Nalkande give the Kings XI a left-arm option. Mujeeb is known for his parsimony in the powerplay, but he's also quite useful at the death. This year, he's bowled 16 death overs in 14 T20 games, conceding 6.9 runs per over in that phase. Mujeeb could also come in for the allrounder James Neesham, but that would compromise the Kings XI's batting depth.
Krunal Pandya has been one of the Mumbai Indians' key performers, but his returns with both bat and ball have dipped of late. Since the finish of IPL 2019, he's scored 122 runs in 12 innings at a strike rate of 107, and taken only six wickets in 16 innings while conceding 8.1 runs per over. With Hardik not bowling as much as before, the Mumbai Indians might think of swapping Krunal for one of the other spinners in their squad, with Anukul Roy the most like-for-like option as a left-arm spinner who can hit down the order.
Stats that matter
Jasprit Bumrah's death-overs economy rate this season is 14.6 - significantly higher than the world-class 7.8 he finished with last season. He's looked a little rusty coming back from the long pandemic-induced break from cricket, and conceded 42 in his four overs against the Royal Challengers. It was only the sixth time he had conceded more than 10 an over for the Mumbai Indians since the 2017 season. The Mumbai Indians have lost five of those six matches.
Each time he's conceded more than 10 an over in the past, though, Bumrah has bounced back strongly. In the matches he has played immediately after the five previous expensive displays, he has cumulatively taken 11 wickets at an average of 11.6, while conceding just 6.4 runs per over. Oh, and three of those bounce-back performances came against the Kings XI.
Kings XI also happen to be Bumrah's favourite IPL opponents. His best average (20.3) and economy rate (6.5) are both against them.
KL Rahul, however, likes batting against Bumrah, scoring 82 off 61 balls against him in all T20 cricket while only being dismissed once. Rahul has an excellent recent record against Mumbai, scoring 289 runs in four innings since IPL 2018, averaging 144.5 and striking at 144. Those four innings have brought him two fifties and a hundred.
Rahul and Mayank Agarwal have added 30, 57 and 183 in the Kings XI's three matches this season. They have scored 76% of their team's total runs.
One thing that makes them a difficult opening pair to bowl against is that they have different strengths, and are therefore hard to match up against. Against pace this season, Rahul has a strike rate of 169 and has hit a boundary every 3.8 balls. Against spin, he's only struck at 117 and hit a boundary every 8.8 balls. Agarwal, though, has gone the opposite way, though without scoring slowly against any one type of bowler: he's struck at 163 against pace while hitting a boundary every 4.1 balls, and at 196 against pace while hitting a boundary every four balls.
Rahul's performance against spin could be a concern for the Kings XI, though, particularly after the powerplay. He has an excellent strike rate (252) and boundary rate (one every 2.5 balls) against spin with the field restrictions in place, but he's struck at 121 thereafter, while only finding the boundary once every 10.7 balls.
Rohit Sharma is two runs short of 5000 in the IPL.