The eyes of the cricketing world will be on Bangalore come Sunday, as the Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab square off for the right to be the 2014 IPL champions.
Supporters will be able to indulge in a feast of wonderful limited overs cricket, with the two teams that finished in the top two spots in the group standings set to make this an enthralling contest.
Who will win the final?
The two sides actually met in the first playoff game four days ago, with the Knight Riders coming out on top that particular time. But the Punjab outfit will be desperate to get the better of their opponents this time round, in what will be their first ever appearance in the final of the competition.
Here’s all the information you need to ensure you don’t miss what promises to be an encapsulating battle between two very evenly matched teams:
Date: Jun. 1 2014
Time: 3:30 p.m. (BST), 10:30 a.m. (ET)
Live Stream: Watch via ITV Player
TV Info: Live on ITV4
These two sides have been the standout outfits throughout the course of the tournament but stylistically they are very different indeed.
The Kings XI side are perfectly suited to this frenetic format. In Glenn Maxwell, Virender Sehwag, David Miller and George Bailey, they have a plethora of batsmen who can win games almost single-handedly. And they all seem to step up when needed.
Maxwell got off to a flying start in the tournament, but his form has tailed off toward the back end of the competition. But fear not, as Miller and Bailey have both chipped in with some blistering knocks, whilst last time out, Sehwag smashed a marvellous 122 from 58 deliveries:
In terms of bowling, they’re pretty dynamic, too. Spearheaded by the ferocious pace of Mitchell Johnson, they have bowlers who can ruffle the opposition’s feathers and take quick wickets. They’ve also utilised the economical talents of spin bowler Akshar Patel, who looks a real prospect at just 20 years of age.
By comparison, Kolkata are a much steadier, reliable outfit. In Robin Uthappa, they have the form batsman in the tournament and you can almost certainly count on him to get the team off to a strong start, given he’s scored in excess of 40 runs in his last 10 IPL knocks:
10 - Robin Uthappa has hit 10 scores of 40+ in a row; previous IPL record: five straight 40+ scores (Michael Hussey & Virender Sehwag). Hot.— OptaJim (@OptaJim) May 28, 2014
Aside from the metronomic scoring of Uthappa, the skipper and other opener Gautam Gambhir is a major threat, whilst the middle order contains players like Yusuf Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate, who can notch crucial runs lower down the order. Pathan showcased exactly what he can do toward the end of an innings with a remarkable knock earlier in the competition:
In the Knight Riders bowling ranks, they have arguably the standout bowler of the tournament. That man is Sunil Narine, who has been able to fashion a fine balance between economical and prolific bowling; the West Indian spin bowler has taken 20 wickets in this tournament so far, conceding on average a shade over a run-a-ball.
Despite the Knight Riders keeping a lid on the Punjab batting line-up last time out, in big games you look to your match winners to get you over the line. At the moment, Kings XI just have a little more gold dust than their opponents and that should see them through.
If Sehwag can play a knock comparable to the one he struck last time out, or if Maxwell can rediscover his early tournament form, then they have the ability to take games away from the opposition, especially in this shorter format.
The opening exchanges are going to be especially vital. If Kolkata bat first, then Johnson must be tidy with his lines to ensure both Uthappa and Gambhir are kept under wraps. If the Kings XI bowlers can restrict the scoring early, it puts big pressure on the middle order, which can be a little hit and miss.
The same applies for the Knight Riders should they bowl first. Sehwag is like a steam train once he gets going and a couple of buffet balls early on could set him up for another monster innings.
They’re two sides that are difficult to compare and tough to split. But expect the star quality of Kings XI Punjab to give them the edge on the day.