KXIP hope to cross MI hurdle to stay alive

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They might have broken out of jail against Kolkata Knight Riders, thanks to their disciplined bowling, but Kings XI Punjab are still on the edge of the cliff and one wrong step would spell their doom. Needing to win their remaining two matches while also hoping for other results to go their way, Glenn Maxwell's team will be up against the mighty Mumbai Indians, who will be keen to bounce back stronger after suffering only their third loss of IPL 2017, which came against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Unlike the last few seasons, when they've had to make the dash close to the business end of the tournament to make it to the play-offs, Mumbai Indians are in a far more comfortable situation this time. Having won nine of their 12 matches so far, MI are currently the table toppers and have already stepped across the door leading to the play-offs. With one more win guaranteeing them a spot among the top-two - which will give them two attempts at making it to the final - Rohit Sharma's side will be keen to bring out their A game, which was lacking against SRH. A rare top-order failure meant that they could not post a competitive total in their last game. It'd serve Mumbai well not to dwell on that too much and instead reflect on their performance against Delhi Daredevils a few days back, against whom they registered the biggest win in IPL history.

The positives have been many and have masked MI's flaws, thus their superb run so far - their best in the last few years in the lead-up to the knockouts. But there are a few concerns, chief among them being their non-clinical manner in closing out games, especially chases. In six successful chases, excluding their Super Over win against Gujarat Lions, MI had lost half their side in four matches, and in five games the deliveries remaining were in single digits, including two penultimate-ball victories. While they have emerged victorious even when they've had their backs to the wall - which serves as a touchstone for chauffeuring through a tournament - MI have let it get too close for comfort several times.

For KXIP, their batting has given them a lot of headaches, and now in the absence of the classy Hashim Amla, there's added pressure on the top-order to deliver. Manan Vohra, Martin Guptill and Shaun Marsh have four half-centuries between them and are the only ones from KXIP to have crossed 50 apart from Amla. However, their conversion rates have been ordinary, which has meant that they haven't been able to make a big impact. Maxwell too hasn't had too many big scores, neither has Wriddhiman Saha, which has further exacerbated the team's woes. Maxwell and Saha though were amongst some runs in their last game, which will give them confidence, but KXIP still need the top-order to fire all guns.

That two scores of 104 by Amla have come in lost causes means KXIP's bowling too is cause for concern. But they compensated for it with a spirited show against KKR. Rahul Tewatia, the 23-year-old legspinner from Haryana, impressed all with his skills as he and Axar Patel managed to put the pressure back on the opposition despite a quickfire start. Mohit Sharma too played a key role in KXIP's defence of 167 in their last match, which would have pleased KXIP and they'll be hoping that the bowlers continue to impress and keep them in the hunt.

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