Bangalore’s march towards the knock-out stages has been checked by two defeats on the road. But Friday’s game offers them the chance to get back on track as they travel to Mohali to take on rock bottom Punjab.
Barring a couple of closely-fought contests, Punjab have not have put up a dismal show so far in the IPL. The 2008 semifinalists and last year’s number five finishers have lost all three of their home games and have won only one match. Punjab would look a different proposition but with just one win in seven, prospects of a semi-final place have already pretty much disappeared.
Venue and Conditions:
The tournament is around the half-way mark and the sheer number of games that have taken place in a short space of time has taken its toll on the pitches. The PCA cricket stadium had offered one of the better surfaces for bowlers earlier in the tournament but there were signs during the last game here on Saturday that some of the pace and bounce had begun to fade.
Captain Kumar Sangakkara is back for Punjab after his one match ban. His replacement in the last game, Shaun Marsh, scored a fifty and so is unlikely to return to the bench and Brett Lee is an automatic selection, so Ravi Bopara will probably miss out.
There is increasing pressure for Punjab to drop struggling veteran Mahela Jayawardene. Particularly with the talented Adrian Barath waiting in the wings, but it remains to be seen if they take such a bold course. The big-hitting Yuvraj Singh has been a flop so far and has managed just about 100 odd runs in all the seven games put together. Mahela Jayawardene has also come a cropper.
Punjab have suffered for the absence of their Australian stars, but Marsh and Lee are back now and there is no sign of an upswing in performance. The bottom line is that key players have simply not been performing and the blame lies squarely with Yuvraj Singh, Mahela Jayawardene and Irfan Pathan who have failed repeatedly.
The Bangalore side, on the other hand, has been going great guns under Anil Kumble, who has also been the pick of the bowlers, taking six wickets averaging only just 5.28 runs per over.
Bangalore could well be unchanged. Kevin Pietersen and Cameron White have just arrived and did nothing wrong against Chennai, whilst Jacques Kallis is the first name on the team sheet and Dale Steyn lends their bowling extra bite. Mark Boucher therefore is likely to sit it out again, with Robin Uthappa continuing as stand-in keeper. Robin Uthappa looked in good nick on Wednesday, but enjoyed a substantial bit of good fortune when he was dropped by Gony off his second ball.
Bangalore remains essentially a solid team and it was encouraging for them that Pietersen and White slotted in so well on Wednesday. Losing to Chennai on a slow, holding pitch was no disgrace and they will be happier with the quicker surface at Mohali where Kallis and Steyn will also be a handful with the ball. Punjab may well turn it around at some point, but it won’t be on Friday.
Manish Pandey has also looked good and with the inclusion of Kevin Pietersen and Cameron White, it has lent depth to their batting. In the bowling department, Praveen Kumar and Dale Steyn have been doing well, while Vinay Kumar, too, has shown his ability to contain the batsman.
Brett Lee: The speed merchant needs to produce a winning spell to give his team a slender chance of still making the semi-finals.
Kevin Pietersen: The former skipper will be looking to bat a little higher up the order and can take any attack apart on his day.
Kings XI Punjab:
MI vs. KXIP – MI won by 4 wickets
KXIP vs. KKR – KKR won by 39 runs
KXIP vs. RR – RR won by 31 runs
CSK vs. KXIP – KXIP win in Super Over
DC vs. KXIP – DC won by 6 runs
Royal Challengers Bangalore
CSK vs. RCB – CSK won by 5 wickets
RCB vs. DD – DD won by 17 runs
RCB vs. CSK – RCB won by 36 runs
MI vs. RCB – RCB won by by 7 wickets
RCB vs. RR – RCB won by 10 wickets
Early in the IPL, it was Punjab who had the upper hand in this fixture, winning the first three games. But Kumble’s men have redressed the balance since, beating Punjab in their last two encounters.
The Mohali outfit scored comprehensive 6 & 9 wicket victories over Bangalore in the 2008 season and started off with another 7 wicket win in their first meeting at Durban before Bangalore came back to score their first triumph over Punjab at the same ground by 8 runs.
Anil Kumble’s side recorded an outstanding victory at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in game 7 of this season’s IPL as they chased down a massive score of 203 with consummate ease thanks to a solid 89 from Jacques Kallis and a whirlwind 51 from just 21 balls from Robin Uthappa.
Bangalore are favorites by a country mile and should win this one in a canter. Their bowling has been exceptional, and their seamers are likely to enjoy the extra bounce in Mohali.
The RCB, placed number three having won four of their seven games, have a formidable batting with South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis in terrific form with both the bat and ball. At this stage of the tournament, Punjab will have to come up with an extraordinary performance if they don’t want to see their campaign in IPL III come to an abrupt end.