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IPL 2021: CSK the 1st team to qualify. KKR vs PBKS Prediction: After "cricket spirit", who’ll win?

The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) came up with yet another clinical effort to brush aside the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) by six wickets in Match 44 of the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) in Sharjah. With their triumph on Thursday, CSK became the first franchise to book a spot in the playoffs.

It's been a brilliant day for the Yellow Army fans as Chennai Super Kings have made their way through to play-offs, becoming the first team to to do so in IPL 2021. It's been a remarkable turnaround for them since their shocking exit last year and it was their captain MS Dhoni who completed the job in style, something that the whole cricketing world has been waiting for such a long time.

MS Dhoni hits a match-winning six after long time

After failing to execute a pull shot, the pressure was back on MSD with only three deliveries left. Siddarth Kaul came from round the wicket and it looked like a slower one where he tried to deceive the batter. Unfortunately for the bowler, the ball was perfectly in the slot but Thala - who turned back the clock and produced a monstrous 96m hit to send the ball into the stands, taking his side through to play-offs.

It was a memorable and nostalgic moment for all the fans to see Dhoni hitting a match-winning six as Sharjah erupted with joy. Apart from all the spectators, MSD's wife Sakshi and daughter Ziva were also absolutely thrilled as they applauded MSD's huge six.

“Well to the fans. They have been great right from the start. We do not need to utter a lot when it comes to good or bad performances, they have taken care of it and I can proudly say on the behalf of CSK that we are very proud of the fans we have got. But since this is a stage… I would ask them to be humble always because that is what the team does and I feel as a fan of the team they also need to do the same and you need to respect each and everyone’s view,” Dhoni to fans after win.

Match 45: KKR vs PBKS

In Match 45 of IPL 2021 scheduled for October 1, the fourth-placed Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will be up against the Punjab Kings (PBKS), who will be looking to win this game at any cost. The match will take place at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and it promises to be fascinating as both teams have had contrasting campaigns so far.

Winning today would help KKR remain in the same spot, but toppling Punjab would be a challenge as they are sure to bring their A-game in a bid to strengthen their own case for a playoff spot. Kolkata Knight Riders need 2 victories of remaining 3 matches to qualify for Playoffs. Eoin Morgan’s side is in some form. KKR defeated DC to give major boost to their playoff chances. Their task has eased out a bit with the victory over Delhi Capitals.

They are currently at the 4th position & share 10 points with Mumbai Indians. In remaining matches, KKR have to lock horns with Punjab Kings (PBKS), Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) – and they need to win a minimum 2 to qualify for IPL Playoffs.

For KKR, Venkatesh’s (126 runs at strike rate of 144 plus) mastery against spin has not yet been a topic of discussion but it will be interesting to see if he can survive the first spell of Shami and Arshdeep. Also, how he tackles Bishnoi and left-arm spinner Harpreet Brar during the middle overs will be keenly observed.

KKR have also made one correct move by sending Nitish Rana up the order as he is a far better player of spin bowling than his skipper Eoin Morgan. The strategy paid dividends in their win against Delhi Capitals earlier in the tournament.

On the other hand, Punjab Kings are sitting at sixth on the points table, having managed to register 4 wins in 11 matches. Lack of performances in the middle order didn’t help them win a lot of matches this season, however, all is not lost yet. Three wins in the next three games could provide them a chance of reaching the playoffs.

Chris Gayle has left the IPL bio-bubble and won't be available for PBKS' remaining IPL 2021 matches. Mayank Agarwal missed the last match because of a stiff back but should come in for Mandeep Singh.

PBKS' chances of winning will depend on how they play the middle overs against KKR and their spinners. Barring the game against CSK, Chakaravarthy and Narine have given runs at less than six an over in the three matches against RCB, MI and DC in their eight overs. Shubman Gill averages more than 72 against PBKS. It'll be crucial that the bowlers are able to break the Gill-Venkatesh Iyer combination early to put the middle order under pressure.

"We need to be positive. We have three games, so we need to take one game at a time. We need to go out there and enjoy ourselves. All our games in the UAE have gone down to the wire, hopefully, we can build on that" - KL Rahul.

KKR vs PBKS Vivo IPL 2021 Match 45 Probable XIs:

Kolkata Knight Riders:

Shubman Gill, Venkatesh Iyer, Rahul Tripathi, Eoin Morgan (C), Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Sunil Narine, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Sandeep Warrier, Varun Chakravarthy

Punjab Kings:

KL Rahul(w/c), Mandeep Singh/Mayank Agarwal, Aiden Markram, Nicholas Pooran, Deepak Hooda, Fabian Allen, Harpreet Brar, Nathan Ellis, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh