Strugglers search for elusive win
Match factsApril 29, 2009
Start time 12.30pm (10.30GMT)
The first match of Wednesday's double-header in Durban is between two teams that are at the bottom of the league - Kolkata Knight Riders and Bangalore Royal Challengers. Kolkata's campaign has been plagued by all sorts of issues - multiple-captaincy, a mystery blogger, players being cut from the squad - and they are presently second from bottom with three defeats in five matches. Bangalore is the only team with a worse record. They've lost four matches on the trot after winning the first one.
Bangalore had to contend with the loss of Rahul Dravid, who returned to India for the birth of his second child, in the last game against Delhi Daredevils. They did not fare too well, with their batsmen managing only 149 runs. The top order continued to be a concern: Bangalore have lost an opener for a duck in each game and invariably ended up two or three down by the end of the Powerplay, leaving an out-of-form middle order with too much to do. Tomorrow's match is likely to be Kevin Pietersen's last in this tournament - the Lord's Test against West Indies begins on May 6 - and he will be keen to sign off with a win.
Kolkata are also likely to lose their most valuable batsman, Chris Gayle, after this game and his absence will hurt them because the rest of the batsmen are struggling for momentum. Their bowlers took a pounding against Mumbai Indians but they are likely to perform much better against Bangalore's batsmen.
Bangalore: Mark Boucher cracked a brisk 36 in his first match, against Delhi, but there's little else to shout about for Bangalore. Apart from Jacques Kallis, the rest of the batsmen average below 20 with Robin Uthappa bringing up the bottom with 38 runs in five innings. There's almost no good news on the bowling front too. Their highest wicket-taker, Anil Kumble, has taken only one wicket in the last four games (after taking five in the first). Kallis has appalling figures of 1 for 135 from 11 overs.
Kolkata: Gayle is Kolkata's highest run-scorer with 107 in four innings but he's 11th among the top run-getters in the tournament. Brad Hodge hasn't pulled his weight as an overseas player - 70 runs in four matches - and neither has the captain Brendon McCullum. Ishant Sharma, with four wickets and an economy of under seven runs per over, is Kolkata's best bowler but their other medium-pacers have failed to provide adequate back-up.
Watch out for
Out-of-form captains: Bangalore picked up Pietersen for a whopping $1.55 million and made him the captain as well but he has done nothing of note in the tournament. Pietersen has scored only 80 runs in five innings but looked to have regained form against Delhi before an ill-advised switch-hit ended his cameo. He will be itching to leave the IPL with a match-winning performance. One captain who's done even worse that Pietersen is Kolkata's new leader McCullum. He's one half of a potentially devastating opening partnership with Gayle but McCullum's devastated only to the tune of 26 runs in four innings. McCullum will have to step up after Gayle's departure to prevent his team from free-falling.
Bangalore's worries begin with their opening combination. Uthappa's been given extremely long rope and, if they don't drop him, Bangalore must consider pushing him down the order. The other options for the opener's slot are Virat Kohli and Wasim Jaffer, who hasn't played a match this season. Most of overseas players they've used - Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn - haven't contributed significantly with either bat or ball and Bangalore could give allrounder Roelof van der Merwe a go.
Bangalore: 1 Virat Kohli, 2 Jacques Kallis, 3 Kevin Pietersen (capt), 4 Robin Uthappa (wk), 5 Roelof van der Merwe/Ross Taylor, 6 Mark Boucher, 7 B Akhil, 8 R Vinay Kumar, 9 Pankaj Singh, 10 Anil Kumble, 11 KP Appanna.
Kolkata have 11 Indians in their squad, out of which they have to select seven, and eight overseas players at the moment, out of which only four can play. The overseas options, apart from those who played the last game against Mumbai, are Moises Henriques, Charl Langeveldt, Mashrafe Mortaza and Angelo Mathews and they won't help strengthen the batting which is the main concern. Anureet Singh did not bat against Mumbai because of an injury and he could be replaced by Murali Kartik.
Kolkata: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Brendon McCullum (capt & wk), 3 Brad Hodge, 4 Sourav Ganguly, 5 Laxmi Ratan Shukla, 6 Yashpal Singh, 7 Arindam Ghosh, 8 Ishant Sharma, 9 Ajantha Mendis, 10 Murali Kartik, 11 Ashok Dinda.
McCullum smashed 158 off 73 balls to annihilate Bangalore by 140 runs in the opening game of the IPL last season. Kolkata won their home game at the Eden Gardens as well by five runs after Bangalore were restricted to 126 for 4 in 16 overs.
George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo