Narine-Maxwell clash key in battle of shaky line-ups
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Start time 1830 local (1430 GMT, 2000 IST)
The big picture
Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders come into this game on the back of contrasting wins. While Kings XI thrashed Sunrisers Hyderabad by 72 runs, Knight Riders broke out of jail during a two-run win against Royal Challengers Bangalore, an outcome influenced by their fielding as the opposition's batting.
The shadow of Glenn Maxwell's form looms over this match too, after his 43-ball 95 but Knight Riders would have taken note of two things from the game against Sunrisers - first, Dale Steyn and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the side's best bowlers, had just nine balls at Maxwell in all. Second, the scores of the other Kings XI batsmen showed how untested the rest of the line-up is. Moreover, no one really knows how they can play if the pivotal Maxwell falls early. Depending on their breakthroughs and the way Knight Riders manage their bowling, it sets up a fascinating sub-contest between Maxwell and David Miller and Sunil Narine and Morne Morkel.
A shaky batting order is not a problem area for the Kings XI exclusively. The longest Knight Riders' openers have lasted together is 10 balls and their Indian batsmen have also been diffident. The relatively weaker Kings XI bowling offers a chance to strike form.
Players to watch
Kings XI's costliest buy at the auction, Mitchell Johnson, hasn't quite hit the peaks he found in the IPL last year, where he took 24 wickets in 17 games for Mumbai Indians. There's a big decision to be made on how he plans the next phase of his career, but for the time being, Kings XI need an inspiring rally from him if they are to deal with the reputation of being extravagant with the ball.
Knight Riders' opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Jacques Kallis occupy the top two spots on the list of batsmen with most ducks in the IPL. In four innings right before the IPL, Gambhir had tallied 162 runs, which is why his recent failure looks even starker. For a captain whose leadership thrives with his own performance - he was one of the top run-getters in the league when Knight Riders won the title in 2012 - a return to form is imperative at this stage.
Stats and trivia
- In 65 innings, Glenn Maxwell has faced 348 dot balls out of a total 898 balls faced.
- In three seasons for Rajasthan Royals, Yusuf Pathan had scored 1011 runs with a hundred and six fifties. In three IPL seasons with Kolkata Knight Riders, he has 809 runs and just one fifty, which came in last year's edition.
- Kings XI have won five out of 11 games between the two teams.
Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo