Holders seek a turnaround
Match factsApril 23, 2009
Start time 16.45pm (14.45GMT)
Rajasthan Royals go into this match seeking a quick turnaround and Kolkata Knight Riders will aim to build on their win in game two. It's as simple as that.
There's not much use talking about Rajasthan's loss in their tournament opener because we all know what happened in the inaugural tournament after they were beaten soundly in game one. The defending champions will always attract eyeballs. The batting looks thin without Shane Watson and Younis Khan, putting immense pressure on Graeme Smith at the top of the order. A weak lower order is also a worry. With the ball, Rajasthan will need to dislodge the explosive Kolkata openers and hope Shane Warne gets the measure of a weak middle order.
Kolkata haven't done anything special yet, barring Chris Gayle's explosive cameo. They overcame their dismal opener with a Duckworth-Lewis win over Kings XI Punjab and plenty rests on Gayle and Brendon McCullum at the top and then on Brad Hodge thereafter. The bowling is still suspect with Ishant Sharma not threatening and the spin department rather thin.
Smith is crucial. He didn't get going and will need to call on his experience of domestic conditions to provide Rajasthan fire at the top. The highest score in Rajasthan's first game was just 11 and the lower order failed to master Anil Kumbe's tidy legspin. The bowling was good, not least Warne's accurate and mystifying variations, and Dimitri Mascarenhas was rather good against Bangalore Royal Challengers.
Gayle failed in the first game but pummeled a quick 44 against Punjab as Kolkata blazed away in pursuit of their target. McCullum too overcame a poor first game with a punchy innings. Hodge tried to shoulder a dismal innings in the first game and Sourav Ganguly laboured for one run before he stupidly steered his 12th delivery to slip. Aakash Chopra remains a Twenty20 misfit and the clutch of Indian players has thin experience in South Africa.
Watch out for
Mascarenhas v Gayle: Mascarenhas had a good game against Bangalore but a hungry Gayle offers a far sterner test. During the ODIs in the Caribbean Gayle hammered 24 in one over by Mascarenhas but the England allrounder dusted himself down and played a key role in a nine-wicket win with 3 for 26 in the next match. Expect fireworks as Rajasthan's strike bowler meets Kolkata's master blaster.
Warne, Mascarenhas, Smith and Tyron Henderson should continue to be the four foreign players. Niraj Patel is the man most likely to be under pressure. Young Abhishek Raut from Maharashtra could be one candidate to take his place.
Rajasthan Royals: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Swapnil Asnodkar, 3 Yusuf Pathan, 4 Tyron Henderson, 5 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Abhishek Raut, 8 Shane Warne (capt.), 9 Mahesh Rawat (wk), 10 Munaf Patel, 11 Kamran Khan.
It's hard to see Kolkata making any wholesale changes given that three of the four overseas players to feature so far are crucial. But it's about time they brought in Ajantha Mendis, given how key spin has proved so far. Mendis could easily replace the NSW allrounder Moises Henriques, who has done nothing of note with the ball. The heat will also be on Chopra, with Wriddhiman Saha the best candidate to replace him.
Kolkata Knight Riders: (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Brendon McCullum (capt/wk), 3 Brad Hodge, 4 Sourav Ganguly, 5 Aakash Chopra/Wriddhiman Saha, 6 Yashpal Singh, 7 Laxmi Shukla, 8 Ishant Sharma, 9 Murali Kartik, 10 Ashok Dinda, 11 Ajantha Mendis.
Rajasthan won both games against Kolkata last year, one home and one away. The first in Rajasthan was a 45-run victory and the second, toward the end of the tournament, was by six wickets.
"We will try our best as humbly as possible. We will try and entertain everyone. We love you and we are going to try our best. Whichever the part of the country you are in, make sure you are proud of Kolkata Knight Riders."
Kolkata owner Shah Rukh Khan calls it as he sees it.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo