Wednesday’s match between the Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab shall be the 24th of this IPL, and the second meeting between the two sides this season. 

Last time out, Punjab edged out Mumbai in a great contest that saw splendid batting at the top of the order from Quinton de Kock of Mumbai and KL Rahul of Punjab. However, Punjab held their nerve at the end with some death-over hitting from Man of the Match Mayank Agarwal to establish an 8-wicket win with 8 balls to spare.

Since that game, Mumbai have had a resurgence defeating perennial favorites Chennai Super Kings and high-flying Sunrisers Hyderabad. With 3 victories in their 5 games, Mumbai come into the match at 5th place but riding high on momentum. What has stood out for Mumbai recently is their bowling, first restricting Chennai to a bare 133 while defending 170, and then following it up by bundling out Hyderabad for a paltry 96. The starting XI has been bolstered by the inclusion of Jason Behrendorff and particularly Alzarri Joseph, who took a 6-wicket haul against the Sunrisers on debut. The two, along with Jasprit Bumrah, Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers, will form a potent bowling attack. Mumbai’s batting has not been tested recently, and they would hope that the likes of skipper Rohit Sharma stand up and be counted against a tricky team in Punjab.

Punjab meanwhile, sit on 3rd place at the table, having 4 wins in their kitty out of 6. They also come into the game on the back of a morale-boosting victory against the Sunrisers. KL Rahul has been in fine nick for the Punjab outfit this season, backed up by young Indian batsmen like Mayank Agarwal and Sarfaraz Khan. With the firepower of the likes of Chris Gayle and David Miller also in store, the battle between the Punjab batsmen and Mumbai bowlers will be fun to watch. Kings XI bowlers have also been doing well, with skipper Ravi Ashwin easing into his role both as captain as well as the main wicket-taker for the men in red and gray.

Here are a few key player battles that we think shall have a decisive impact on the game:

KL Rahul vs Alzarri Joseph

KL Rahul has been in outstanding form this season and is coming into the game with back-to-back fifties. He is Punjab’s leading run-scorer with 217 runs at an average of over 54. The last time these two teams met, Rahul was instrumental in the run-chase, scoring a classy 57-ball-71, remaining unbeaten to guide his team home. He provided the perfect foil for Mayank Agarwal’s more destructive batting, and will again prove to be a huge obstacle for Mumbai to remove. However, he shall be up against Alzarri Joseph, who just had his dream debut in IPL against the Sunrisers with figures for 6/12, the best bowling figures in IPL history. Replicating that will be nigh impossible, but Mumbai shall bank on the Antiguan to dismiss the dangerous Rahul. This is the most mouthwatering key player battle considering the form of both the players.

Also Read: The Fantasy Guide for this match

Quinton de Kock vs Mohammed Shami

Just like his Kings XI counterpart Rahul, Quinton de Kock had a huge impact for Mumbai the last time these two sides met. De Kock’s opening bout of 60 set the stage for Mumbai to build on, and if he stayed on longer at the crease, Mumbai would definitely have had a much stronger case in the match. De Kock also has an impressive record against Kings XI, scoring 216 runs in 5 games at an average of 54 and a strike rate of almost 145, and will hope to continue in the same vein on Wednesday. De Kock’s brilliant innings last time out, however, was cut short by Mohammed Shami, and Punjab would bank on the right-armer yet again. Shami has had a fairly decent outing this far in the IPL but would look to increase to his tally of 6 wickets by snaring the South African at the top of the order. This promises to be an exciting player battle.

Kieron Pollard/Hardik Pandya vs Ravichandran Ashwin

Mumbai Indians have always depended on the late charge to push up their total by 20-odd runs at the end of their innings. And the main individuals responsible for these have been Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard. The fast-bowling all-rounders have both amped it up in different matches, and with strike rates of 178.94 and 157.37 respectively, they are capable of hitting any bowler out of the park. While Hardik has been the more consistent power-hitter, Pollard showed in the Indians’ last game against the Sunrisers how destructive he can be as well, as he powered a rudderless Mumbai innings with a 26-ball 46. The onus of stopping these two big hitters will fall on Kings XI skipper, who has been excellent in recent matches. With 7 wickets in 6 games at an economy of 7.37, Ashwin shall take on the responsibility to rein in and hopefully dismiss either or if possible both of Pollard and Pandya. This will surely be a key battle decisive to the end result of the game.

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