Punjab and Kolkata anxious to arrest slide
Match factsSaturday, March 27
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
Big pictureTwo evenings ago, Kings XI Punjab went into a match in Mohali placed second from last on the points table and against a similarly languishing side tied on points. Tomorrow, in front of their home crowd and now rank bottom of the pile after losing that match, they will face the Kolkata Knight Riders who at second last, are ahead by two points. How did it come to be so bad for Punjab?
People have been all too eager to throw up reasons for that, but the bottom line is that they just aren't good enough this year. They were beaten comprehensively by Delhi Daredevils, upstaged in a high-scorer against Royal Challengers Bangalore, unable to cope with Deccan Chargers, somehow managed to pull the rug from beneath a dreary Chennai Super Kings, and then fell apart against Rajasthan Royals. Inside each of those games lies a story - of indifferent fielding, ragged bowling and indifference with the bat from the team's leading players. They had the upper hand, it appeared, going into the match against Rajasthan but we all know how that ended. So, against a similarly depleted and deflated side, there's just not much left to say that can inspire confidence in Punjab.
For Kolkata, who have won just one game on the road, time is ticking. In their last four games they have crossed 150 only once, and only three batsmen - all of them openers - have managed a half-century. Their top order, all of whom got starts, dishearteningly failed to convert in the last game against a disciplined Mumbai. There were 44 dot balls - absolutely criminal in Twenty20 - and once again Sourav Ganguly and Owais Shah appeared misfits in this format. Kolkata need a rejig, but where are the back-up batsmen? The bowling did not inspire either - Ishant Sharma and Murali Kartik were the only wicket-takers - as Mumbai needed to take no risks to meet an asking rate of 7.8 an over.
Form guide (most recent first)Kolkata Knight Riders LLLWW
Kings XI Punjab LWLLL
Team talkPunjab did not rush to field Brett Lee and Shaun Marsh in the last game, but surely the time has come to get them in. Both Australians are coming off injuries but at this stage it would appear that even if the pair is half fit they're likely to be more valuable than some of the others taking the field for Punjab. Nobody is willing to admit it publicly, but Mahela Jayawardene should be benched and Adrian Barath got in. Same for Sreesanth, who has been all over the place. It's time the allrounder Reetinder Sodhi got a game.
David Hussey, the Australian limited-overs specialist, joined the Kolkata squad and looks set to slot right into the starting XI. That's means one of Shah, Shane Bond or Angelo Matthews will have to make way. Charl Langevelt and Ajit Agarkar are recovering well and should be available for selection.
Punjab 2 Kolkata 2
Punjab won the first game between these sides in 2008 by nine runs before a Ganguly-special gave Kolkata a stirring three-wicket win in the return game. In South Africa, Kolkata emerged triumphant in a rain-affected encounter before Punjab hit back with a last-ball win in Port Elizabeth.
In the spotlight
Yuvraj Singh: Wherever he goes, whatever he does, this man is always under the spotlight. But this season it's for the wrong reasons. He looks unfit, disinterested and in a hurry to get back into the dug-out when he comes to the crease. In five games Yuvraj has mustered just 75 runs. The last two times he's batted in Mohali he's been out to poor shots. Kolkata will hope he obliges them too.
Angelo Mathews: Since his star turn in Kolkata's first two games, the Sri Lankan allrounder has faded into obscurity. His seam-up medium-pace, which netted him five wickets at an average of 9.2 in those two appearances, has since yielded 91 runs without further addition to the last column. After a match-winning half-century in the first match, he has hardly got a chance to bat. He wasn't needed in the second game after his bowling helped set up the win, made 6 from 13 balls against Chennai, was run out without facing a ball against Rajasthan, and faced three deliveries for three runs against Mumbai. One more bad game and he could be benched.
The chatter"Look, the morale isn't down. It's my job to ensure that doesn't happen. I've been doing what I need to."
Dav Whatmore, Kolkata's coach, tells the Telegraph that the team hasn't taken a beating.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo