In seven innings, Jonny Bairstow had scored a measly 80 runs and looked doomed to be one of the big failures of IPL 2022. In Punjab’s last two matches, however, the dashing stroke player woke up from his slumber to smash 122 (66 off 29 against RCB and 56 off 40 against Rajasthan) runs at breakneck speed, giving his team’s aspirations of making the playoffs a massive boost.
Against Rajasthan Royals, Bairstow had found the rhythm that had deserted him till then. In the next match, against RCB, he went berserk and revived Punjab’s sagging hopes of reaching the last four.
The road to the playoff is still loaded with threats, the biggest coming tonight against Delhi Capitals, similarly placed on 12 points.
But with Bairstow finding pungent form, Punjab will fancy their chances.
Both teams are loaded with big shot-makers, and if the pitch plays true, expect a high-scoring humdinger. Apart from Bairstow, Punjab have Shikhar Dhawan (who has scored more than 400 runs already this season), Sri Lanka’s free-stroking Bhanuka Rajapaksa and above all Liam Livingstone, whose unfettered approach and creative shot-making have kept his team in the hunt despite the many setbacks along the way.
If Mayank Agarwal finds his groove, the batting only becomes stronger.
DC’s top-order is formidable.
But on current form, Punjab may just have the edge in the pace bowling department. Kagiso Rabada’s peaked at the right time and Arshdeep Singh’s remarkable consistency in the death overs can stifle the best batsmen.
In spin, Delhi look slightly ahead. Kuldeep Yadav has 18 victims, which puts him at no.6 among the highest wicket-takers.
Remember, these have come on batsmen friendly pitches. If there is some help from the pitch, Kuldeep is the man Punjab will fear. Supporting him are Axar Patel and Lalit Yadav, no mean spinners.
Neither side have won the IPL title. With a place in the playoffs so near, players will obviously be under a lot of pressure.
On paper, the contest looks evenly matched. In such a situation, the team that hold their nerve and perform to their potential win the day.
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