After returning to winning ways with a hard-fought triumph over Delhi Daredevils, the Kolkata Knight Riders will be hungry for more when they take on a formidable Kings XI Punjab at home in their Indian Premier League clash here on Saturday.
After suffering two consecutive losses, the Knight Riders came back strongly to beat Delhi Daredevils by 19 runs last night.
Be it in fielding or bowling, the Knight Riders showed intensity, something that was needed after Manoj Tiwary salvaged the batting with a fluent yet combative innings.
Often criticised for not being able to provide the finishing touches in the Knight Riders close losses, the stylish Tiwary remained unbeaten in his 61 from 47 balls with three powerful sixes.
On a day the established Jacques Kallis, Gautam Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan and Eoin Morgan aggregated just 34, it proved to be a match-winning knock for the Team India fringe batsman.
Yet, the total did not look match-winning, had it not been for the die-hard efforts by the bowlers and the fielders.
Brett Lee led the attack with amazing accuracy. An inspirational penultimate over by Lee in fact nailed the last chances of the Daredevils.
With 26 needed from last two overs and two batsmen looking to go for the kill, it could have been anybody’s game in the Twenty20 scheme of things.
But, Lee conceded two runs and affected two run-outs, one of them in true slam dunk fashion for the final rites of the Delhi outfit.
Kallis failed with the bat but the 35-year-old dished out a some fighting saves on the boundary to lift the morale of the side.
The win meant that the Knight Riders are at number two — ahead of Chennai Super Kings — at the midway stage of the Twenty20 tournament and as Gambhir pointed out, it was morale-boosting.
It remains to be seen whether Gambhir leads the pack, often in news for all the wrong reasons, to the pinnacle.
As Knight Riders launch their mission to the next stage after completing half of their league phase, it is all about maintaining the momentum from hereafter.
With three more home matches lined up — Kings XI Punjab, Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians — it is crucial for the Knight Riders not to lose the grip of it.
At the slow Eden Gardens strip tomorrow, Gambhir will certainly give a thought about bringing in Bangladeshi skipper and left arm spinner Shakib-al-Hasan in the four-foreigner line-up.
That English southpaw Eoin Morgan is yet to hit purple patch may give Gambhir an option.
In Shakib and Iqbal Abdulla, who is doing well at the moment with a 3/25 yesterday, the Knight Riders should not worry about their bowling.
All-rounder material Laxmi Ratan Shukla cooling the benches may sound surprising and the former Bengal skipper may be considered as an option.
They may be lying low on seventh but the Kings are not in a much disadvantageous position considering that they have played only five compared to seven by the Knight Riders.
It’s a situation much like that of Kolkata a couple of matches ago.
After three superb wins under their belt, Delhi outgunned Punjab in a run-fest in their previous match.
In second leading run-getter Paul Valthaty, who shot into limelight with 120 not out against Chennai, Adam Gilchrist and Shaun Marsh, Kings XI have a threatening top-order.
With David Hussey, Dinesh Karthik to follow, Kings XI have a formidable batting line-up and they will hope that the bowlers led by Praveen Kumar and World Cup winning leg-spinner Piyush Chawla do their job meticulously.
A win will take them to the play-off zone — the top-four of the table.
Off the field, it will also be a battle between the hit Bollywood screen couple — Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta — the team bosses of Knight Riders and Kings XI respectively.
In the points table, the Knight Riders have eight points, while Kings have six.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (c), Jacques Kallis, Shreevats Goswami, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Eoin Morgan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Brett Lee, Laxmipathy Balaji, Iqbal Abdulla, Jaydev Unadkat, Shakib-al-Hasan, Brad Haddin, James Pattinson, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Pradeep Sangwan, Shami Ahmed, Rajat Bhatia and Manvinder Bisla.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (c), Paul Valthaty, Shaun Marsh, Dinesh Karthik, David Hussey, Abhishek Nayar, Sunny Singh, Ryan Harris, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Shalabh Srivastava, Ryan McLaren, Stuart Broad, Love Ablish, Amit Yadav, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Siddharth Chitnis, Paras Dogra, Vikramjeet Malik, Mandeep Singh, Nitin Saini.