Reigning champions the Mumbai Indians are looking to bounce back in the 2021 Indian Premier League when they face Kolkata Knight Riders on Thursday. The Indians are fourth in the standings, but lost to Chennai Super Kings in the first game after the tournament resumed play in the United Arab Emirates.
By contrast, the Knight Riders began the second phase in winning fashion after beating Royal Challengers Bangalore by nine wickets on Monday. Kolkata leg-spinner Varun Chakaravarthy, all-rounder Andre Russell and Mumbai six-hitter Kieron Pollard will be the players to watch at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
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In the United States, the match (10 a.m. ET start time) won’t be on TV anywhere, but anyone in the US can watch Mumbai Indians vs Kolkata Knight Riders live on ESPN+:
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You can also watch on your computer via ESPN.com.
Mumbai Indians vs. Kolkata Knight Riders Preview
Chakaravarthy claimed three wickets when the Knight Riders beat Bangalore. He also allowed just 13 runs from four overs, proof the 30-year-old is relishing the pitches in the UAE, which encourage a lot of movement for the ball.
It helps the Knight Riders’ bowling arsenal is not a one-man show. Russell also took three wickets from the Royal Challengers and can attack those in front of the stumps with incredible pace. Former Windies international Ian Bishop told ESPNCricinfo Russell is regaining his focus and best form in time for the T20 World Cup:
Pollard will be key to Mumbai’s efforts to unsettle Russell and Chakaravarthy. He’s an explosive power hitter when on form, but things didn’t go to plan last time out. He was bowled LBW by Chennai’s Josh Hazlewood after managing 15 runs from 14 balls. Pollard did fire a four and six during his time at the wicket, though, and the Indians need him to send a few more deliveries beyond the boundary on Thursday.
Mumbai will also need opener Quinton de Kock to do more, after the South African fell to an LBW, courtesy of Deepak Chahar. De Kock had started off in style by sending three of the balls bowled his way to the boundary to earn fours. He can set the right tone for the Indians by putting Kolkata’s dangerous bowlers on alert.
When the Knight Riders are on bat, it will be the turn of opening pair Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer to once again strut their stuff. They combined for 94 runs to complete a successful chase of Bangalore’s 92. Iyer was the big hitter on the day, achieving a strike rate of 151.85 against the 27 deliveries he faced, including seven fours and a six.
If Iyer and Gill are unable to match their exploits against Bangalore, the Knight Riders will be confident Russell can add a flourish to the top order. He’s got his confidence back with both bat and ball, and the 33-year-old has a history of piling up runs in bunches. He already has 12 fours and 13 sixes from his 163 runs gained this season.
Stopping a trio as prolific as Iyer, Gill and Russell demands a shrewd and talented bowler. Fortunately for the Indians, they can turn to Trent Boult, who is in outstanding form. He’s deadly in the Powerplay, and Boult offered a reminder of his class by bowling Faf du Plessis for a duck against Chennai. It was one of two wickets taken by Boult during the match, and his pace bowling could catch Russell and Co. cold.
Picking a winner is not as straightforward as the standings might suggest. Yes, there are a couple of places separating the two, but the Indians could still be missing key players. Boult told the press captain Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya, who missed the defeat to Chennai, remain doubts to be fit to face Kolkata.
Mumbai could be faltering at the precise moment the star performers for the Knight Riders are regaining their confidence.