LWWLWWLLWLWL. That's six wins and six losses, all more or less evenly distributed. It's been that sort of season for the Kolkata Knight Riders, who've shown glimpses of being the force they used to be in their glory years, only to regress to the mean immediately afterwards.
That sort of form has left them in a delicate situation with two games left to play in the league phase. They could win just one of them and still make the playoffs, but they could also win both and fail to qualify. With a net run rate of -0.479 - only the bottom two teams currently fare worse - they'll probably need to win two out of two to give themselves a proper chance.
First up they face the Chennai Super Kings, who are out of the reckoning for the playoffs and are now simply looking to, according to their captain MS Dhoni, enjoy the "12 painful hours" they have left in the tournament. Dhoni's math may have been slightly off - he was speaking after the Super Kings' victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore, which was their 12th game of the season - but if his players do find a way to enjoy themselves and play with freedom over their last two games, they could become dangerous opponents.
All the pressure will be on the team that has something to lose.
In the news
A knee injury has kept Andre Russell out of the Knight Riders' last three games, and it's not clear whether he's recovered enough to feature on Thursday, but news of his pull-out from the upcoming Lanka Premier League - for which injury has been cited as the reason - suggests he hasn't.
A 51-ball 81 from Rahul Tripathi carried an otherwise misfiring Knight Riders batting unit to 167, and the Super Kings appeared poised to haul it down when they needed 69 from 48 balls with nine wickets in hand. But the Super Kings were unable to deal with Sunil Narine and Russell - all of whose overs had been held back for the last 10 overs - and they imploded to lose by ten runs.
Chennai Super Kings: 1 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Ambati Rayudu, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 N Jagadeesan, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Sam Curran, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Monu Kumar, 11 Imran Tahir.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Nitish Rana, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Sunil Narine, 7 Pat Cummins, 8 Kamlesh Nagarkoti, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Varun Chakravarthy, 11 Prasidh Krishna.
One of the big contributors to the Super Kings' victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore in their last match, also played in Dubai, was the bowling of Imran Tahir, Mitchell Santner and Ravindra Jadeja, who tied Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers down expertly through the middle overs. At least two of the three spinners, who all turn the ball away from the right-hander, are likely to feature again, and one way for the Knight Riders to deal with their threat better than the Royal Challengers did would be to have left-hand batsmen face more of their bowling. This could mean Nitish Rana moving back to No. 3, perhaps, or Eoin Morgan or Sunil Narine batting at No. 4.
It could even mean the addition of an extra batsman - the Knight Riders squad includes the left-handed Rinku Singh, who is yet to play a game this season - instead of either Kuldeep Yadav, Kamlesh Nagarkoti or Prasidh Krishna. The Knight Riders were three down early in both their most recent games, and they attempted to counterattack their way out on both occasions. That approach brought them a win against the Delhi Capitals, and also brought them back into the game against Kings XI Punjab, only for their lack of batting depth to hurt them later on. The inclusion of an extra batsman could enable the Knight Riders to play in this counterattacking fashion with a bit more security.
When Dinesh Karthik has begun his innings within the first 10 overs this season, he's scored 48 runs in eight innings at an average of 6.00 and a strike rate of 72.73. When he's made his entry in the second half of the innings, he's scored 100 runs in four innings at 33.33 and 175.44. The Knight Riders have batted him at No. 4 in their last two games, but he's perhaps better used further down the order - below Morgan and/or Narine - or certainly in a role that brings him in close to the death (last five) overs: he has a strike rate of 188.88 in that phase this season, and an average of 42.50.
Stats that matter
It's time once again for Narine vs Dhoni. Narine has now bowled 63 balls to Dhoni in the IPL without conceding a boundary. He's given away just 30 runs in all, while dismissing him once.
Of all bowlers to have sent down at least 50 balls to left-hand batsmen this season, Varun Chakravarthy (10.83) and Jadeja (120.00) have the best and worst averages, respectively, though Navdeep Saini, who hasn't dismissed a left-hander this season while conceding 110 runs, could be said to have done worse. Jadeja also has the worst economy rate (12.63), while Chakravarthy's is a healthy 7.09.
The Knight Riders (6.86) and the Super Kings (6.91) have the worst powerplay scoring rates of all teams this season. The Knight Riders (22.45) also have the worst average in this phase, followed by the Rajasthan Royals (23.60) and the Super Kings (23.71).
If they play, it will be Narine's 350thT20 game, Ravindra Jadeja's 250th, and Kuldeep Yadav's 100th.