Author: Mona Gupta (New Delhi)
Back to winning ways courtesy an inspiring innings from Ganguly in their last match against title-holders Deccan Chargers, Kolkata Knight Riders suddenly find themselves in reckoning for a last-four berth as their 24-run victory improved their position to fifth on the table. Kolkata Knight Riders will be high on confidence when they take on a battered and bruised Kings XI Punjab in their return match of the Indian Premier League match in Kolkata on Sunday.
Venue and Conditions:
The troubled Kings XI Punjab will visit the cricketing Mecca of Eden Gardens to take on Sourav Ganguly’s Kolkata Knight Riders in match 34 of the IPL. Punjab are in disarray after losing a game they should have won to Bangalore last time out and they are now four points adrift at the bottom of the table. Kolkata are in fifth and need to win to maintain their challenge for the semis.
The pitches at Eden Gardens tend to get slower as the game progresses so batting first tends to be the preferred choice for the captain that wins the toss. Any score over 160 here is a potentially defendable total.
Kolkata will have been delighted with their last performance against Deccan and may field virtually the same team. There will be pressure on Angelo Mathews and more importantly Chris Gayle to start delivering with the bat, but they have compensated somewhat by producing handy performances with the ball, so should be safe.
Kolkata tend to run hot then cold, a good performance followed by a bad one. This lack of consistency needs to be addressed especially in their batting where they need more than one player to contribute a decent score each innings. So Chris Gayle needs to step up to the plate and perform for his team, to compliment the efforts of Ganguly and David Hussey.
Against all odds, old man Ganguly appears to be in good touch after his match winning innings of 88 against Deccan, while David Hussey has played a secondary role so far but there is always the belligerently destructive side to his batting, once he is in.
David Hussey is suffering from a stomach bug but the team management has said it “not serious” and the think-tank will have a tough time picking the XI if Hussey recovers.
In contrast, Punjab failed to defend even a fighting 181 in Friday’s match against Royal Challengers Bangalore to cap their seventh defeat from eight matches. Their sole win was against Chennai Super Kings in a match that was tied to be decided through the one-over eliminator.
Punjab will have to make some changes, but most of the culls will probably come in the bowling department. IPL 3 has been nothing less than a mini personal disaster so far for Aussie paceman Brett Lee; he bowled the crucial over that went for 25 which effectively handed the game to Bangalore. Not what your expensive strike bowler is meant to do. He may be the most high profile casualty for this match.
It is not all doom and gloom for Punjab as Kumar Sangakkara and Yuvraj Singh looked to have finally found some decent form against Bangalore. Ravi Bopara continues to accumulate runs efficiently, if not particularly spectacularly and lies fifth on the top tournament run scorers list.
“We were in the hunt and put up a great total but could not deliver… Most of us are experienced in this kind of situation, we hope to turn it around,” Sangakkara said after their loss last night.
Punjab’s loss to Bangalore was the result of a terrible effort in the field, three emminently catchable chances put down, shambolic ground fielding and lacklustre death bowling. Bad fielding is a malaise that can spread through a team. If their bowlers can find self belief and the fielders motivate themselves to back them up then Punjab can certainly compete in this game.
Brett Lee cost $900,000, but in ten and a half overs of bowling so far in IPL 3 he has yet to take a wicket. To rub further salt into the wounds, he has been smacked around at a rate of 10.5 runs per over, the worst economy rate of any Punjab bowler.
Kumar Sangakkara: The Captain looked in great nick against RCB and he would have to fire to lead his team out of the misery that they find themselves in.
Shane Bond: The New Zealand pacer bowls brilliantly to left-handers, and the Kings XI line-up is packed to the brim with them.
Best: Angelo Mathews, Manoj Tiwari, Murali Kartik
Struggling: Shane Bond, Ishant Sharma, Sourav Ganguly
Kings XI Punjab:
Best: Irfan Pathan, Ravi Bopara
Struggling: Mohammed Kaif, S Sreesanth, Kumar Sangakkara
After defeating the Kings XI Punjab in the reverse fixture in Mohali, the Kolkata Knight Riders took a 3-2 lead in their head-to-head battle with Kings XI. The last time the two teams met at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, the KXIP were at the receiving end of a certain ‘Dada’, whose innings of 86 off 53 balls that included six boundaries and as many sixes ensured that his team chased down a stiff target of 174.
The Kolkata Knight Riders should win this one rather easily, though surely it is time for the Kings XI to have a change of luck.