After six weeks of emphatic Twenty20 action, Indian Premier League 2014 will reach its climax on Sunday as the league’s top two, Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders, meet in Bangalore, India.
Though there’s just one dose of IPL drama for us to enjoy, if the play-off stage is anything to go by, it’s set to be the thriller of all thrillers.
Kolkata reached the final after a comprehensive 28-run victory over Kings XI Punjab in Qualifier 1, while Punjab earned their shot at revenge thanks to a 24-run triumph over Chennai Super Kings in Qualifier 2.
Venue: M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
Date: Sunday, June 1
Time: 1:30 p.m. BST
TV Info: ITV 4 (UK only)
Live Stream: ITV 4 website (UK only)
Punjab on a Revenge Mission
In the regular IPL season, Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders shared a win apiece heading into the play-offs, but it was the league’s runners-up who taught Punjab a lesson in Qualifier 1.
After posting a very reachable 163, Kolkata’s bowlers found some superb form to limit Punjab’s talented order to just 135/8 and book their place in Sunday’s final.
It was a real scalp for the 2012 champions, who had Umesh Yadav’s fantastic bowling return of 3-for-13 with 15 dot balls to thank for what turned out to be a comfortable victory in Kolkata.
Man of the Match for today's game is Umesh Yadav for brilliant bowling. 4-0-13-3 ...!!! #KKR— KKR Knight Riders (@kkrofficial) May 28, 2014
Following Wednesday’s victory, Yadav’s bowling partner, Morne Morkel, praised the impact that the 26-year-old has had for KKR as he looked forward to the final—per Indian Premier League:
I am a massive fan of Umesh. We have played together with the Delhi Daredevils and it is fantastic to play with him yet again; this time for KKR. He is a natural athlete. We are close friends and I really hope he can kick on from here and make that spot in the Indian bowling line-up his own.
The fast-medium bowler has taken 71 wickets in 74 career Twenty20 matches, according to ESPN cricinfo, and he’ll need to find that kind of form if he’s to once again torment the Punjab order, who performed admirably with the bat in Qualifier 2.
Veteran opener Virender Sehwag stole the show with a 122 from just 58 balls, featuring 12 fours and eight sixes in an innings that rolled back the years in Mumbai.
His knock made the top five all-time best innings—per ESPN cricinfo—and if he can produce the goods once again, then Yadav and Co. will have their work cut out on Sunday.
Key Stats and Prediction (via Indian Premier League)
KKR are going through a fantastic spell of form, winning their last eight matches in a row to stamp their authority on the 2014 IPL, but defeating the league leaders is no easy feat.
Punjab lost just three matches in the regular IPL season, topping the table by four points as their batsmen demonstrated their worth game after game.
Three of the top-10 run-makers in IPL 7 have been members of the Punjab squad, while just one, Robin Uthappa, is from KKR.
Punjab’s Glenn Maxwell has made the most sixes this term, slogging his way over the boundary 36 times.
The Australian’s strike rate is also something to be admired, with his 188.39 bettered only by Rajasthan Royals’ James Faulkner’s average of 192.55.
KKR’s ability with the ball will be vital behind whether or not they can find their way to glory on Sunday, though they certainly have the personnel to do some damage.
Sunil Narine has taken the second-most wickets in IPL 7, dismissing 20 batsmen in just 15 matches.
He is also one of only two players to enjoy a four-wicket haul on two occasions, together with Super Kings’ Ravindra Jadeja.
Based on how the season has played out and the statistics, it’s going to be an incredibly tight affair in Bangalore on Sunday.
Both sides are more than capable of reaching 200-plus with the bat, but with such high stakes, the bowlers will likely reign supreme.
With that in mind, KKR may just have the edge heading into the final with their sensational line-up with the ball, but you can never write Punjab off, who are chasing their first IPL title.
Prediction: KKR to be crowned IPL champions