Misfiring Kolkata seek batting revival
Match factsThursday, April 11, 2013
Start time 1600 (1030 GMT)
It's the start of the second week of the tournament and defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders' engine is yet to fire properly. They are now in Bangalore, facing the Royal Challengers, who despite their Super Over loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad have already started to rev up their machinery with last night's win in the rematch.
Knight Riders have a strong and vibrant bowling attack. Brett Lee has been generating pace, Rajat Bhatia has been difficult to go after and Sunil Narine is back at being mysterious after a comparatively not-so-productive time in international cricket. But it is their batting which has appeared off colour, with only Eoin Morgan managing a half-century. Manvinder Bisla, the hero of the final last year, has been consumed twice by his own aggression, while Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary and Yusuf Pathan are yet to show any intent. Gautam Gambhir has had starts, but as he often reiterates, the team needs to fire collectively.
However, they have received a boost ahead of this game. Brendon McCullum, who kicked off the IPL in 2008 with a blazing 158 (still the highest score in IPL cricket), is available for selection.* The New Zealand captain had to postpone his trip, having to wait to recover completely from the hamstring injury he picked during the home series against England last month. He joined the Knight Riders camp on Wednesday.
Royal Challengers Bangalore's batting has an intimidating aura around it. It has also been bolstered with the addition of AB de Villiers and their bowling attack, despite the seesawing fortunes of Vinay Kumar, has shown incisiveness. However, their bottom half of the batting order appears thin, at least on paper, and will be tested if their top falters against Narine and Co.
Players to watch
AB de Villiers is one of those rare batsmen currently around in international cricket who is as dangerous in Tests as he is in Twenty20s. He can play the most soothing of shots and then follow it up with the most outrageous one. Give him the gloves and he transforms to a more than capable wicketkeeper. Add to that his value as an athletic fielder. He joined the team on Tuesday morning and played a match later that evening. On Thursday, he will be fresh.
Eoin Morgan is a player made for the shorter format. He is quick on his feet against the spinners and can hit the ball long. He showed his value on a pacy Jaipur pitch with a well-paced half-century - only his second in 14 matches for the franchise - that kept Knight Riders in the match, and in Bangalore, he is his team's only man in form.
Stats and trivia
- Knight Riders lead the head-to-head 6-5 in 11 matches between these two teams
- Yusuf Pathan's strike rate in 44 matches for Knight Riders is 124.68. In 43 matches for Rajasthan Royals, his strike rate was 161. He is yet to score a half-century for Knight Riders.
- Knights Riders have the highest team score of 222 in Bangalore, from the opening match of IPL 2008. Royal Challengers' highest score on this ground came in 2011, when they scored 205 against Kings XI Punjab.
"We should have chased down the score. As champions, you cannot afford to do that. We were not smart at all."
Gautam Gambhir, after Knight Riders' loss to Rajasthan Royals
"We can't say we are not able to win matches if Gayle fails."
Royal Challengers' RP Singh believes the team has enough firepower in batting
*03.30GMT, April 11: The preview has been updated with the Brendon McCullum news
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo