IPL Qualifier 1 preview: Kolkata v Kings XI Punjab

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Overcomplicated scenarios, rather than a straightforward semi-finals stage, aside – this showdown promises plenty. Head-to-head battles are proliferated across the war. Indeed, now is the reckoning for Robin Uthappa versus Glenn Maxwell.

<b>Overview</b><br>First things first, the winner of Wednesday's first fixture will play in Sunday's final. The loser will face the day's second victor – Chennai or Mumbai – in Friday's so-called Eliminator. That winner will become the second finalist. And now you know.

Overcomplicated scenarios, rather than a straightforward semi-finals stage, aside – this showdown promises plenty. Paddy Power, too, have favourable <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket betting odds</b></a> to match.

Head-to-head battles are proliferated across the war. Indeed, now is the reckoning for Robin Uthappa versus Glenn Maxwell, Sunil Narine against Akshar Patel, Sandeep Sharma opposing Morne Morkel.

Current form points and homeground advantage to early-week success for the Knight Riders, who have won seven successive matches. The closing throes of the Kings XI Punjab's league campaign, however, has been punctuated by two defeats. Admittedly, a glut of opening victories enabled the franchise to belatedly rest kingpins and experiment with bench strength.

Here's hoping the weather holds, meanwhile. Rain was lashing Kolkata at the time of writing – and wasn't likely to relent soon. If no play is possible on Tuesday, a Super Over will decide the result. Failing that, the Kings XI Punjab will be declared winners – after topping the table during the league stage.

<b>Key Players</b><br>Having recently usurped Maxwell at the helm of the 2014 IPL run-scoring charts, and not likely to relinquish the coveted position, Kolkata's <b>Robin Uthappa</b> has cherished a resounding nine successive 40-plus scores.

While the Indian's 137.44 strike-rate is nowhere near as hefty as the Australian's 191.72, it speaks of a driven ambition to anchor the innings – rather than hit out and get out. A few more telling innings will surely warrant a recall to the international ranks.

Spare a thought for the Kings XI Punjab's <b>Virender Sehwag</b>, whose former glory has certainly taken a backseat to the hot, new young guns on the scene. Regardless, Sehwag still has a place in T20I cricket.

He was the only one to successfully defy Tuesday's opposition a little more than two weeks ago – and will be eager to show there is more to the cosmopolitan pack than South African David Miller and Melbourne's Maxwell.

<b>Previous Meeting</b><br>Fixture 47, at Eden Gardens, brought a rather lopsided affair at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on 11 May. Sehwag's 72 was as good as it got in a modest final total ensured by Miller and Maxwell's collective failure. Morkel was outstanding with the ball, and the batsmen – just the three required – followed suit in a big nine-wicket win.

Uthappa led from the front and captain Gautam Gambhir secured some form, with the talented Mandish Pandey completing the successful pursuit with all of two overs to spare. Sandeep and Mitchell Johnson proved the wrong defensive combination.

<b>Likely Playing XIs</b><br><i>Kolkata Knight Riders:</i> Robin Uthappa (wicketkeeper), Gautam Gambhir (captain), Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Shakib Al Hasan, Suryakumar Yadav, Vinay Kumar, Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine.

<i>Kings XI Punjab:</i> Manan Vohra, Virender Sehwag, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, George Bailey (captain), Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Akshar Patel, Mitchell Johnson, Rishi Dhawan, Karanveer Singh, Parvinder Awana.

<b>Cricket365's Prediction</b><br>Any franchise able to gather victories, the bulk entirely important, through the business end of a highly-pressurised tournament is the one to back. The Knight Riders, too, have all but gone all the way with the veteran Jacques Kallis watching from the dug-out. The balance of their XI is impeccable, and <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/indian-premier-league' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Paddy Power's stakes have suggested they will take the title for it.</b></a>

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