Kolkata hold slight advantage
Wednesday, May 25, Mumbai
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
They might have lost the thriller in Eden Gardens to Mumbai Indians but it was Kolkata Knight Riders who were the better team until those dramatic few seconds. "Nothing has happened for which we have to keep our heads down," Gautam Gambhir said at the end of that game. "I have a lot of faith in Bala, that's why I gave him the final over. Nine times out of 10, in such a situation when 21 are needed in the last over, he would do the job for us." Indeed, it was just one of those days and it would be a mistake to conclude that Kolkata have lost momentum or that Mumbai have gained it from that match. If anything, it's Kolkata who will start with a slight edge in the knock-out game tomorrow for they are a better all-round side.
Mumbai are a puzzling team. They seem to be filled with batsmen all the way down to the order but yet, they rarely dominate an attack. Andrew Symonds seemed too rusty when he was playing, Kieron Pollard has rarely converted his starts and they keep going back to Sachin Tendulkar, Ambati Rayudu and Rohit Sharma with an odd contribution from the rest. Perhaps, Tendulkar's batting style best captures the situation: In five of the last six games, he has rarely gone over run-a-ball. Is it a worry that the middle and lower order won't survive his dismissal?
The best thing that has happened to Kolkata is the batting form of Manoj Tiwary and the bowling form of Iqbal Abdulla. The batting line-up looks so much assured because of it. Jacques Kallis, Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan come at 1, 3, and 5 and Tiwary's form at 4 has made it a really solid outfit. Shakib Al Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Rajat Bhatia and Abdulla are very good lower order batsmen and add more solidity to Kolkata. The bowling too has a nice mix of pace, seam and spin.
And there is a further incentive that awaits the two teams: The winner qualifies to play in the Champions League.
Form guide (most recent first)
Kolkata Knight Riders: LWLWL
Mumbai Indians WLLLW
Will Mumbai replace Ray Price with Andrew Symonds? Kolkata are unlikely to change their set up. Whenever they have played Shakib, he has always delivered.
Predict the playing XIs for this match. Play ESPNcricinfo Team Selector.
In the spotlight
Jacques Kallis has been a solid contributor at the top. He is the rock around which Kolkata build their innings. Unlike many others, his arsenal has more big shots on the off side and he uses it to perfection. He didn't bowl in the last game but Gambhir might use him fo a over or two in the crunch game.
Harbhajan Singh played a neat cameo with the bat and is likely to be used again in a similar situation. His main job is as spinner and it will be interesting to see how he goes in the pressure game. He has the goods; will he deliver?
- Ambati Rayudu has four fifties, just one behind the leader of the table S Badrinath who has five. Kallis too has four half-centuries
- Iqbal Abdulla has an economy rate of 6 in this IPL. Overall, across all editions, he has the third best economy rate (6.23)
"The playoffs will be a different ball-game, there will be pressure on both sides as defeat will send them out. Today on the other hand, they (Mumbai) had nothing to lose, while we had to win to clinch a top-two slot. We have to do things the hard way. But we know they are beatable, if we play good cricket." ."
Gautam Gambhir sets the agenda for the game
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.