The stage was set on Tuesday for a riveting play-off clash between Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. After heavy rains forced the match to be postponed to Wednesday, fans waited with bated breaths to witness one of the most anticipated contests of the ongoing edition.
Although intermittent showers interrupted the match on several occasions, they did not curtail the number of overs to be bowled. Batting first, the home team, Kolkata Knight Riders posted a competitive 163/8 on a slow pitch, which was kept under the covers for more than two days.
Bailey’s men began their chase on a sorry note, losing the wicket of opener Virender Sehwag off the first ball of the second over bowled by Umesh Yadav. Punjab could not recover from this early jolt, as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals. The big guns Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and George Bailey failed to fire when they were expected to wade out their team out of murky waters.
The result? The mighty Kings XI Punjab faltered in their chase and surrendered to the clinical bowling performance of Kolkata Knight Riders, who cruised into the finals with a convincing win. Thankfully for the Punjab franchise, they still have one more chance to redeem themselves and find a spot in the finals along side Kolkata. Punjab have the herculean task of edging past a dominant Chennai Super Kings side which is riding high with confidence after Wednesday night’s comprehensive victory against the Mumbai Indians.
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If we go by the records, Chennai Super Kings have a slight edge over their counterparts from Punjab. In the last six editions of the IPL, the Super Kings have reached the finals five times, whereas Punjab are yet to reach there. Whether they would be able to defeat Chennai Super Kings in Friday’s eliminator is another question. The first thing that Kings XI Punjab needs to address is their lack of consistency and sudden dip in form.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the issues that have seemingly plagued the Kings’ victory march.
Maxwell’s minimised effect
One of the biggest factors in Kings XI Punjab’s juggernaut in the UAE leg of IPL 7 was the indomitable form of Glenn Maxwell, whose belligerent hitting had created tremors in opposition camps. During his reign of terror in the UAE, Maxwell scored 300 runs from just five games with three 80-plus scores.
After coming to India, Maxwell has managed only 239 runs in 9 matches at a mediocre average of 26.55, with a highest score of 90 against Chennai Super Kings in Cuttack. His last five scores read – 6, 0, 2, 14 and 43.
The 25-year-old’s wings were clipped with some facile spin bowling, especially the leg-breaks of Chahal, Chawla, Tahir and the lesser known Shreyas Gopal. He has been flummoxed by the wrong-un twice in his last five games.
Although the Chennai Super Kings bowling line-up for Friday’s match is unlikely to feature their leggie Samuel Badree, Maxwell still needs to be wary of the spin duo of Ashwin and Jadeja. Ashwin, whose redundant leg-side line was severely punished by Maxwell in the UAE, has condescendingly suggested that he is going to tackle the Australian dasher with a over-the-wicket line in Friday’s face-off after the win over MI.
Skipper George Bailey has a task cut out – to instill new vigour in his side and inspire them to get back to winning ways. The match will be a crucial one for Bailey not only as a captain, but also as a batsman who has struggled for runs in recent matches. Yes, he has come down the order, but the captain must fancy a move up the order for the high-profile clash. His last five scores read – 26, 1*, 26*, 39 and 6.Overall, Bailey has accumulated 255 runs from the 15 games he has played in the ongoing tournament at an average of 36.42.
In conclusion, Kings XI Punjab have a handful of issues to sort out if they wish to reach the finals this year. With the big three – Maxwell, Miller and Bailey not firing, Punjab can at least seek solace in the performances of Manan Vohra and Wriddhiman Saha. However, the entire playing XI has to get its act together and work like a synergy to resurrect their lost form. The stakes are quite high, and Punjab can not afford to compromise anymore.