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When TS Eliot penned “April is the cruelest month” in The Waste Land, it’s quite likely he was talking about Mumbai Indians.

They’ve always struggled through the season’s first half, only to blossom as the tournament enters May. This season is no different, and with three wins in their last four games, Mumbai are now fifth, and might just be one win from jumping to fourth on the points table.

Mumbai are finally finishing games well – the inablity to do so hurt them in the first half – and are clinching important moments in their matches. Jasprit Bumrah did that in Pune and Indore while Hardik Pandya displayed that skill on Sunday, when he followed up a late flourish with the bat with a six-run 18th over to shut KKR’s middle order down.

KKR, on the other hand, find themselves one defeat, potentially, from falling off the top four. Their situation reflects the chinks they are yet to iron out, which have so far kept them from going on a run of wins.

Mitchell Johnson no longer strikes fear into opposition batsmen while Shivam Mavi and Prasidh Krishna still have some way to go as fast bowlers. Robin Uthappa has gone past 50 only once this season, while Nitish Rana’s poor strike rate in the middle overs has put extra pressure on Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell.

KKR will need to sort out these issues given the momentum Mumbai bring to the contest, and given Mumbai’s record at Eden Gardens. The venue is truly a home away from home for Mumbai, who have won nine of their 11 games there. They’ve also won their last seven games against KKR, home or away, and their captain Rohit Sharma has exceptional numbers in Kolkata.

Likely XIs

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Shubman Gill, 5 Nitish Rana, 6 Dinesh Karthik (capt & wk), 7 Andre Russell, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Prasidh Krishna/Shivam Mavi 11 Mitchell Johnson/Tom Curran

Mumbai Indians: 1 Suryakumar Yadav, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Rohit Sharma (capt), 4 Ishan Kishan (wk), 5 Krunal Pandya, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 JP Duminy, 8 Ben Cutting, 9 Mitchell McClenaghan, 10 Mayank Markande, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Previous meeting

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik propelled Mumbai to 181 for 4. Hardik led the defence too, finishing with 2 for 19 from his four overs, and KKR fell short of their target by 14 runs.

Strategy punt

Against KKR on Sunday, Mumbai changed their lengths to shut down KKR’s scoring. Mumbai’s pacers bowled 69% of their deliveries either short or short of a length – while conceding 7.75 per over – and earned three wickets. Expect more of the same at the pace-friendly Eden Gardens.

Vinay Kumar, meanwhile, could also be a left-field choice for KKR to combat Rohit. Vinay has dismissed Rohit in each of their six meetings. Rohit’s strike rate against Vinay is only 66.67.

Stats that matter

  • The side winning the toss has opted to bowl in all 12 matches at Eden Gardens since IPL 2017, and have won 66.67% of those games.

  • The brothers Pandya are reliable middle-overs operators. Krunal’s economy rate is only 6.7 in overs 7-15, while Hardik goes at 7.2.

  • Dinesh Karthik has never been dismissed by Hardik or Bumrah. He strikes at 172 against Hardik, and at over 200 against Bumrah.

  • Chris Lynn, on the other hand, has terrible numbers against Hardik and Bumrah. He’s fallen to Bumrah three times in five games while Hardik has dismissed him twice in seven balls.

Fantasy picks

How can you go against Rohit in Kolkata? At the Eden, he’s made 264 against Sri Lanka in an ODI, 177 on Test debut, a Ranji Trophy double-hundred, 109* in the 2012 IPL, 98* in the 2015 IPL and 84* in the 2016 IPL. In all, he’s gone past 30 five times in 11 IPL games.

If you’re a KKR fan, stick with the spinners. They’ve taken 21 wickets among them at home, at an average of 18.1 and a strike rate of 14.4. With three spinners giving you four overs each, that’s an average of five wickets per game.

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