Kolkata vs Punjab: What can we expect to see?

Match six of the Indian T20 League pits hosts Kolkata against Punjab at Eden Gardens on Wednesday.

Both teams started their season with wins, and now face off in a battle for oneupmanship.

Here are the talking points ahead of the game:

Gayle vs Russell

Chris Gayle and Andre Russell. Two superstars in their own right. Both crowd favourites, capable of winning games on their own and in a matter of an over or two.

In Punjab’s win over Rajasthan, Gayle was pivotal to a match-winning total by hitting 79 fro 47 balls. After a slow start, Gayle opened up by taking 27 runs off one over from Jaydev Unadkat. (VIDEO: West Indian mega stars Chris Gayle and Andre Russell clash)

In Kolkata’s thrilling victory over Hyderabad, Russell was the game-changer with a ballistic unbeaten 49 off 19 balls.

Up against each other, these two West Indian titans of the T20 game could offer an engaging sub-plot to today’s game.

R Ashwin's controversial dismissal of Jos Buttler has split opinions.
R Ashwin’s controversial dismissal of Jos Buttler has split opinions. BCCI

All eyes on Ashwin

Punjab won a cracker over Rajasthan, but the headlines were dominated by R Ashwin‘s dismissal of Jos Buttler. Opinions have been polarised since Ashwin stopped in his bowling action almost at the point of delivery as Buttler started to leave the crease.

The Englishman was nearly a metre out of the crease when Ashwin halted and whipped off the bails and then appealed for a run out. The subsequent third umpire’s verdict sent an enraged Buttler on his way. Widely criticised for what has been termed poor sportsmanship, Ashwin defended his actions by reminding critics that it was not a premeditated attempt and that he was within the rules of cricket. (READ: It was instinctive: Ashwin on mankading Buttler)

Ashwin’s every action is bound to be viewed with a microscopic gaze when he comes on to bowl at Eden Gardens.

Will KKR reunite Lynn and Narine?

He has not done much of note in his ODI and T20I career with Australia, but when it comes to T20 franchise cricket the big-hitting Queensland batsman Chris Lynn carries plenty of weight. For Kolkata in 2018, he remained injury-free during the season and finished second on the team’s run-charts with 491 from 16 matches at a strike-rate of 130.23.

Sunil Narine's best score of 75 came against Punjab in 2018.
Sunil Narine’s best score of 75 came against Punjab in 2018. BCCI

His partnership up front with Sunil Narine proved successful, and hence it was somewhat surprising to not see the latter paired with Lynn on Sunday. Narine has success at Eden Gardens, so getting him to open with Lynn could prove the way to go. Dropping Nitish Rana back into the middle order will also strengthen Kolkata’s batting.

As an aside, this will be Narine’s 100th IPL match and the stats show that he loves playing Punjab. His best figures in the league (5/16) and best score (75) came against them.

Will Tye and Miller slot in?

On his IPL debut, England allrounder Sam Curran took two wickets but conceded 52 runs in four overs. He would probably not have played in the first place had Andrew Tye been around on Monday. But now that the Australian has joined the Punjab squad, chances are he will slot in at Curran’s expense.

David Miller, who was in South Africa when Punjab played their first game, is also in India and should play. If he does, Nicholas Pooran will have to go out. Which means that KL Rahul will keep wicket.

Win the toss and bowl

Eden Gardens has proven a successful venue for chasing, and so it will not be a surprise at the toss if the captain who wins opts to field. Since 2015, 29 T20 matches have been played at Eden Gardens of which 21 have been won by the team that chooses to field. Chasing teams have won 19 times out of 29.