On a roll after two successive victories, Kolkata Knight Riders would be cautious not to slip at home when they face a resurgent Kings XI Punjab in their IPL 5 fixture on Sunday.
Knight Riders and Kings XI started their season five campaign in a similar fashion with both the teams suffering two losses in the first two matches before tasting their first success in their respective third game.
While Gautam Gambhir’s boys started the turnaround in Bangalore, Adam Gilchrist-led Kings XI did it at home against Pune Warriors India in their last outing.
With both teams having found the winning mantra after the jittery start, Sunday’s outcome would be crucial as they will look to outdo each other and avoid another hiccup.
Knight Riders slow bowlers led by Bangladesh’s left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan will once again look to get the most out of the tailor-made conditions.
It is the visitors’ ability to adapt against Knight Riders slow bowlers Shakib and Sunil Narine on the difficult Eden surface that would determine the outcome of the match.
Against Rajasthan Royals, Shakib was brilliant with his guile as his three wickets in a crucial stage of the match ensured it a low-scoring affair.
The Bangladeshi will once again look to sizzle. “I love playing here. It’s like my home ground as I’ve been playing here since u-15 days. Hope there would be many more (such performances),” Shakib said after their win on Friday.
The Shakib-Narine duo not only picked four wickets but conceded a miserly 39 runs from eight overs, something that set the tone in favour of the Knight Riders.
Gambhir would once again look to use the duo with the best advantage as it would be a battle of spin against the likes of an inform Shaun Marsh, Gilchrist and David Hussey.
Laxmipathy Balaji, who earned the man of the match for taking four for 17 in Bangalore, returned wicketless on Friday but the Tamil Nadu pacer led the seam attack beautifully to maintain the pressure at the other end.
Despite two consecutive wins, it would be over-ambitious to say that all is well in the Knight Riders camp as there remains some areas of concern.
Their batting, especially the middle-order, is yet to fire. Even against a small chase of 132 last night, the Knight Riders lost five wickets and there was no match-winning partnership.
Gambhir would hope that the star-studded line-up boasting of Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan, Manoj Tiwary and Ryan ten Doeschate put up a power-packed performance on Sunday.
Punjab, on the other hand, tasted their first success in IPL 5 when they beat Pune at home and skipper Gilchrist would expect his boys to keep doing the good work.
Among their batters, it would be a homecoming of sorts for David Hussey who represented the Knight Riders earlier and the Aussie would look to sizzle in the Punjab camp this time.
It’s the Aussie trio of Gilchrist, Marsh and Hussey who would form the crux of Kings XI batting as the performance of the domestic talents has been rather lacklustre so far.
Marsh was in sublime form with an unbeaten 64 in their low-scoring chase against Pune as they clinched the match by seven wickets.
“It is wonderful to see him (Marsh) back in action. He missed the last game because of back strain and now he is back with full fitness. He is such a beautiful player, most successful batsman in the IPL history, if you take whole lot of things into account,” Gilchrist said.
But last year’s hero Paul Valthaty’s poor form is a worrying factor. Since his blistering century last season which launched him in the IPL, the opener is under pressure to keep his place with scores of 13, 1 and O.
He also had a quiet Ranji season for Himachal Pradesh, scoring 120 runs in five first-class games and it would be interesting to see whether Gilchrist gives him another chance at the top.
English bowler Dimitri Mascarenhas after his five-for against Pune would look forward to another rich haul along with fellow seamers in Praveen Kumar and Parvinder Awana even though it would be the seemingly inexperienced slow bowling attack that would be the key factor tomorrow.
Coach and captain Gilchrist would hope that leggie Piyush Chawla adapt himself quickly to the Eden conditions as his four overs would be crucial especially against the inconsistent Knight Riders batting.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (Capt.), Jacques Kallis, Manvinder Bisla (wk), Manoj Tiwary, Shakib Al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Debabrata Das, Rajat Bhatia, Laxmipathy Balaji, Sunil Narine, Chirag Jani, Iqbal Abdulla, Iresh Saxena, Jaidev Unadkat, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Pradeep Sangwan, Sanju Samson, Sarabjit Ladda, Mohammad Shami Ahmed, Brendon McCullum, Brett Lee, Eoin Morgan and Marchant de Lange
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (Capt.), Paul Valthaty, Shaun Marsh, Mandeep Singh, Piyush Chawla, David Hussey, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Parvinder Awana, Bipul Sharma, Harmeet Singh, Praveen Kumar, Abhishek Nayar, Amit Yadav, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Gurkeerat Mann Singh, Nitin Saini, Paras Dogra, Ramesh Powar, Shalabh Srivastava, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh, Vikramjeet Singh, David Miller, James Faulkner, Nathan Rimmington, Ben Cutting, Ryan Harris and Kyle Abbott.