While Gautam Gambhir has starred with 192 runs in three matches with a strike-rate of more than 125, the Kolkata Knightriders’ bowlers too have done their job well and played their part in the two wins this season. It was the Australians John Hastings and Brad Hogg who excelled initially, and the likes of Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav too stepped up in the last match against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Hosts Kings XI Punjab have finally won a match at their home ground, with youngster Manan Vohra and big-hitter Glenn Maxwell coming to the party. On a low-bounce Mohali track, Kolkata will rely heavily on the likes of Andre Russell, apart from the pace of Morkel and Yadav. KXIP will look towards youngster Sandeep Sharma and experienced campaigner Mohit Sharma to do the job.
The Kings XI Punjab openers Manan Vohra and Murali Vijay posted the team’s first 50-run partnership in last 22 months — their 98-run partnership setting the course for what was a nervous win in the end for the home side. The Australian Shaun Marsh’s troubles continued while skipper David Miller failed once again trying a big shot but holing out at long-off. “I would have played that shot probably ten out of ten times,” Miller would say after the match. The side lost three wickets for 18 runs but Glenn Maxwell’s power-hitting saved the night.
In contrast to KXIP’s opening pair, Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa have featured in nine 50-plus partnerships in IPL and Gambhir, who is now the leading run-getter with 192 runs, posted his 20th fifty plus score as captain in the tournament. After getting only 36 runs in the Powerplay overs, Gambhir and Uthappa went into fifth gear as the run-rate escalated over eight. Gambhir carried on after the fall of Uthappa, and with Barinder Sran getting some assistance from the pitch in the later overs, he made sure that target was achieved without any hiccups in the end.
Gambir brought in pacer Umesh Yadav who produced the goods in the last game. He went wickless against Delhi Daredevils – 0 for 21 from three overs, but rebounded well against Sunrisers Hyderabad with a three-wicket haul. He struck after Morne Morkel ensured Shikhar Dhawan’s problems continued with a delievery which had some extra bounce. Yadav surprised David Warner with a slower off cutter, luring him to hit softly to short cover. Yadav and Morkel’s control in the initial part of the innings meant Kolkata gave only 36 runs in the first six overs before the duo returned in the later overs to plot the fall of dangerous looking Eoin Morgan and Naman Ojha. Andre Russell once again impressed in the middle overs.
For Punjab, medium pacer Sandeep Sharma, who had got Brendon McCullum earlier in the tournament, troubled Ajinkya Rahane with his in swing initially before claiming his wicket. However, the lack of wickets from the spinners Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla in the last match might worry Gambhir.
News from the bench
While both the teams opted to not to undergo practice on the eve of the match, Miller would certainly look to make some changes in the spin department. With Pradeep Sahu not impressing in three matches so far, Miller can look towards all-rounder Farhaan Beherdien and also give Gurkeerat Singh Mann a go. Miller has also the option of playing Anureet Singh, another bowler who has picked wickets at Mohali. Gambhir meanwhile might go for a extra pace bowler, seeing Yadav and Morkel’s heroics.