Mumbai brace for KKR spin challenge
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
Mumbai Indians have a lot more riding on the outcome in Cuttack, considering defeat could leave them needing to win all their remaining matches. So managing Kolkata Knight Riders' spin attack gains further priority. Sunil Narine and Co juggle between attack and defence quite well and it will fall upon the Indian batsmen to circumvent them.
Rohit Sharma has had trouble deciding whether to open or not, but with Knight Riders known spin threat in the middle overs, he might remain at No.4. Mumbai will need him and Kieron Pollard to provide acceleration late in the innings. Their other resources - Corey Anderson has not looked comfortable without pace on the ball, CM Gautam is a rookie at this level and Lendl Simmons tends to be hit or miss - do not inspire much confidence.
This is the 40th match of the IPL and Knight Riders are yet to pitch camp at Eden Gardens. Wednesday's encounter with Mumbai Indians was supposed to be their first home game, but security constraints have forced relocation. Homesickness, though, would be the last thing troubling Gautam Gambhir's men after defeating table toppers Kings XI Punjab at the Barabati Stadium on Sunday.
After a slew of shaky starts, Knight Riders have found a reliable top order and have reaped four wins. Robin Uthappa was unsure when to accelerate and when to accumulate in the middle order, but as opener he has found clarity. Gambhir's form has been a welcome boost, both for himself and for the team. A captain as intense as him functions better when he knows his own game is in order. And with Knight Riders now among the top four, a sound tactician will be a prime asset.
Kolkata Knight Riders: WWLLL (most recent first)
Mumbai Indians: WLWWL
Where they stand
Kolkata Knight Riders : 4th on the table with four wins in nine games
Mumbai Indians : 7th, with three wins in nine games
The IPL began with Knight Riders spinners twisting the Mumbai line-up into knots. Sunil Narine claimed 4 for 20 to ensure the target of 164 was well beyond reach. But things had looked rosier for Mumbai when Knight Riders were starved of momentum until late in their innings. However, Jacques Kallis (72 off 46) and Manish Pandey (64 off 53) used the platform they had built to crack 73 in the last six overs.
Watch out for
Though Knight Riders have had the benefit of some solidity at the top, their middle order has been suspect. They have bungled winning situations on more than one occasion including a startling collapse of 6 for 2 in Ahmedabad. With the tournament heading into it's business end, one of Shakib Al Hasan or Ryan ten Doeschate needs to take control.
Mumbai's most recent victory was hailed as "clinical" by their captain. The top order is stepping up and Ambati Rayudu has slowly built himself into form and seems to have collared the No.3 spot. The pitch at Cuttack usually supports the batsmen, but he will know he has looked clumsy against extreme pace and that Kolkata have three genuine quicks in their squad.
Stats and trivia
- Mumbai Indians' openers are yet to post a fifty-run partnership. Their highest was 25 against Royal Challengers Bangalore
- Kolkata Knight Riders' spinners have taken 27 wickets (economy rate 6.45), the best tally among all teams in the season so far
"I want to score a half-century in every game and get my team off to a flier at the top of the innings."
Mumbai Indians opener Lendl Simmons on his gameplan
"In any format of the game, to contain batsmen you have to pick wickets. So that's what I think most of us are looking to do. We are not worried about getting hit for sixes or fours."
A peek into Kolkata Knight Riders spinner Piyush Chawla's mental make-up
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo