Teams seek escape from mid-table muddle
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Start time 2000 local (1430 GMT)
The two IPL finalists from last season are currently trying to find their feet in the middle of the points table. While Kolkata Knight Riders have been more convincing so far, Kings XI Punjab have not fired on all cylinders yet.
Knight Riders have had a week's rest after their loss to Royal Challengers Bangalore. Their captain Gautam Gambhir is in form but their middle order has not seen testing times yet. Their biggest concern so far has been fielding. They won the opening match largely because Mumbai Indians' efforts in the field were worse. Three days later, Morne Morkel dropped Chris Gayle twice and there was no recovering from that.
Another spot of bother is Sunil Narine. After a remodelled action, and getting it cleared from BCCI, the mystery spinner has gone wicketless in the two matches with batsmen seeing him off without much difficulty. He is also not getting much support from the other spinners. Shakib Al Hasan conceded 48 against Mumbai, he has left for national duty now. KC Cariappa leaked 28 in two overs on debut and Piyush Chawla's economy rate in two matches is 8.67.
Kings XI's start to this season is in contrast to last season's, when they won their first six matches. Their concerns are much bigger and have mainly come from abroad. Out of the six innings from Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and George Bailey, only one has borne fruit - Bailey's unbeaten 32-ball 61 in their win against Mumbai. Mitchell Johnson has not been used with the new ball and though he has taken four wickets, he has been taken for runs too. Their spinner Axar Patel has also taken wickets but he has done it by restricting the oppositions in the middle overs.
Whichever team puts these concerns behind them better will have an upper hand on a Pune pitch which is good for batting and may also help seam bowlers.
Watch out for…
Glenn Maxwell has not been in his element at all this IPL. His scores read 15, 6 and 7 while batting at Nos. 4, 3 and 5 respectively. Twice he has been dismissed by spinners and Knight Riders would want Narine or Chawla to tame him again. A dominating knock from him on Saturday would lift the confidence of Miller and Bailey too in the middle order.
Also overseas player, also not effective so far - Knight Riders will be desperate for Sunil Narine to dismiss at least one of the main Kings XI batsmen and not just put brakes on the scoring rate. Narine has 15 wickets in eight matches against King XI, his second-best against an IPL team after Mumbai, and his best figures of 5 for 19 are also against them.
Stats and trivia
- Gautam Gambhir is 79 short of becoming only the third batsman to reach 3000 runs in the IPL
- Gambhir has hit 341 fours in the IPL, the most by any batsman. Virender Sehwag is next with 332
- With only four wins in 19 matches, Pune is the second-worst venue for a home team in the IPL. Visakhapatnam, where the home team has never won a game, has the worst record
- The match will be Sehwag's 100th in IPL. He has batted in every single innings. It will be the 100th innings for Yusuf Pathan, if he gets to bat, too, in his 109th IPL outing
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo