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Divergent teams beef up the contrast in Lucknow

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While Lucknow Super Giants practiced under lights on match eve, tunes from “Giorgio by Moroder” reverberated in the Ekana International Stadium. It was a rather hip choice by the DJ, this song by Daft Punk, which was a band of two Frenchmen who revolutionized electronic music and disguised themselves in robot costumes while at it. The song felt at odds with the old world charms of Lucknow but it was yet another reminder of the part of the city one was in: the newer Gomti Nagar extension sprawling with most things modern that mainland Lucknow has to offer.

A similar contrast underlines the two teams in focus. Punjab Kings go back to the inception of IPL and have had close shots at glory in 2008 and 2014, the two editions they finished in the last-four. LSG, a rather new addition to the IPL ecosystem, have been catching up fast and already boast of a Play-off spot in their only attempt. It will make for a fascinating watch when these two teams, headed in different directions on the points table and at different points in their IPL journey as a whole, take each other on for only the second time ever. And if that doesn’t do it for you, KL Rahul’s long history with PBKS should be a good enough reason.

What will also be a good reason to tune-in is the playing surface. A red-soil pitch is being prepared for this game and promises plenty of runs. The fast bowlers who bend their back should also get something out of it; Mark Wood manifested it with a five-wicket haul against Delhi Capitals here. All in all, it’s set to be a pitch that will be better suited to the strengths of the home side, which has its fair share of stroke-makers. And after the nature of their victory at the Chinnaswamy, similar true surfaces aren’t going to hurt. But watch out for their death bowling, for they conceded as many as 108 runs in the last 7 overs against RCB.

PBKS, on the other hand, have struggled to set totals this season but wouldn’t mind another crack at it on a good playing surface here in Lucknow. The conditions wouldn’t be too dissimilar to what they played on in Mohali recently, albeit this one would come with much shorter square boundaries. But it would still be a small adjustment compared to what they’d have to make if they plan to travel across Lucknow.

What: LSG vs PBKS, Match 21, IPL 2023 at 7:30pm IST

Where: Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium, Lucknow

What to expect: Plenty of traffic restrictions in the city which clearly isn’t a favourite among the locals. But rest assured that plenty of them will be willing to maneuver their way around and make it to the stadium on a weekend.

The game will be played on pitch #3 on the square and the boundaries behind the wicket are less than 55 meters long according to the curator. Expect a lot of shuffles and scoops from the batters padding up at this end. Plenty of it was on display during LSG’s net session.

It’s predicted to be a warm, cloudy evening in Lucknow and if that forecast stays true, the dew factor might not play a huge role. Both teams would still be looking to chase, given the kind of victories they have had this season.

Team news

Lucknow Super Giants

News: Does Quinton de Kock finally get a game? Kyle Mayers registered scores of 13 & 0 in his last two games and lately hasn’t bowled much either, and is likely to make way for de Kock.

Tactics & matchups: Amit Mishra and Ravi Bishnoi make an eclectic spin duo and will be a handy cog in the wheel against Dhawan, PBKS’s most prolific batter by some distance this season. The left-hander, who sits at the top of the batting charts currently, averages only 25 against right-arm legbreak bowlers since IPL 2019 and will have to be on his toes especially against Mishra, who’s gotten him thrice in 33 balls.

Probable XI: KL Rahul(c), Quinton de Kock, Deepak Hooda, Marcus Stoinis, Krunal Pandya, Nicholas Pooran(w), Jaydev Unadkat, Amit Mishra/Ayush Badoni (Impact Player), Avesh Khan, Mark Wood, Ravi Bishnoi

Punjab Kings

News: With only a day between games, PBKS did not practice on match eve in Lucknow. Liam Livingstone, who pulled up muscle after his late arrival in India, is unlikely to be available just yet. “He came for practice yesterday, pulled his muscle and another 2-3 days before he should be good to go,” Dhawan had said of Livingstone after the game against Gujarat Titans.

Tactics & matchups: Nicholas Pooran seems to thrive against left-arm seamers – PBKS have a couple of them in their ranks – and not so much against right-arm fast, against whom he averages only 17 since IPL 2019. Marcus Stoinis, on the other hand, has an unfavourable matchup against left-arm seamers.

Probable XI: Prabhsimran Singh, Shikhar Dhawan(c), Matthew Short, Bhanuka Rajapaksa/Rahul Chahar (Impact Player) Jitesh Sharma(w), Sam Curran, Shahrukh Khan, Harpreet Brar, Kagiso Rabada, Rishi Dhawan, Arshdeep Singh

Did you know?

The much-criticized surface against New Zealand recently was also a red-soil pitch but had been “overfertilized” according to people in the know, and that caused all the holding grass to die and the pitch to play like it did.

PBKS have lost two out of two games trying to set a target this season.

Deepak Hooda averages 18.72 against right-arm fast bowling since IPL 2019.

What they said

“I hope this is the season for me. (I’m) in a good space and state of mind” – Nicholas Pooran

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