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KKR target playoff berth at home; MI seek to salvage pride

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Kolkata, May 10: In red-hot form, two-time former champions Kolkata Knight Riders will look to seal an IPL playoff berth for the first time in three years when they take on the struggling Mumbai Indians in their final home match of the season, here on Saturday.
The return of their two-time title-winning skipper Gautam Gambhir as team mentor has done wonders for the side which has found ways to win games from difficult situations this season.
Sitting at the top of the 10-team standings with eight wins from 11 matches, another win will guarantee them the playoff berth as the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise will look to end on a high, its campaign at the home venue of Eden Gardens.
Gambhir’s ploy to back Sunil Narine as an opener along with World No.2 T20I batter Phil Salt has been a masterstroke.
The duo have scored bulk of the team’s runs, giving it the perfect platform in power-plays to post six 200-plus totals from eight matches batting first.With 32 sixes to his name, Narine is also the second in the list behind Abhishek Sharma (35).The consistency with which Narine keeps churning out high scores match after match has been phenomenal.With one century and three fifties, the Trinidadian has also been their leading run-getter, amassing 461 runs at a strike-rate of 183.66. Englishman Salt has scored 429 runs at a strike-rate of 183.33.
The duo’s explosive form has also meant that the likes of Andre Russell and Rinku Singh, who have been their designated finishers, have not got enough opportunities. Their performance has also covered up the team’s bowling profligacy, particularly that of Mitchell Starc.The young Angkrish Raghuvanshi at No.3 has also proved his worth, while Ramandeep Singh has been spectacular at the death.
In contrast, five-time champions Mumbai Indians, under Hardik Pandya, became the first team to be knocked out after Sunrisers Hyderabad demolished Lucknow Super Giants the other day.Coming on the back of a morale-boosting win over SRH, MI will look to salvage some pride.Fresh from his knocks of 56 and 102 not out, Suryakumar Yadav has been in scintillating form which augurs well for Team India ahead of the T20 World cup in less than a month.At the same time, Team India fans will hope that Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya also return among runs.The India captain has four single-digit scores and one 11 in last five games, while Pandya’s best this season has been 46. The struggling all-rounder has failed to cross 10 in his last six innings.
Pandya would be desperate to strike form given that it would be crucial to India’s chances in the T20 World Cup next month.
Match starts at 7.30 PM. (PTI)

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