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April 1, 2010
Match factsFriday, April 2
Big PictureIt's official. Kings XI Punjab are this season's Kolkata Knight Riders. Their predicament mirrors that of Kolkata's in 2009, when they won just one of their first seven matches and occupied the basement for practically the entire time in South Africa. Then Kolkata finished last, and now Punjab need to figure out how not to end up the same. Given the mess they're in and rumours of serious discontent within the squad, it's next to impossible to see how they're going to do that.
Punjab have been on a downward slope since the first IPL and this is pretty much rock bottom. In 2008 they reached the semi-finals; in 2009 theirs was an inconsistent journey as they went on a victory-defeat ride; in 2010 they have been awful. Five of Punjab's six losses have been by margins of over 30 runs or four wickets. Only one of their batsmen has made it to the top 15 run scorers, only one bowler features in the top 20 wicket-takers. Statistics never tell the full story, many a critic will happily argue, but in Punjab's case they sure give a good reason why the team is struggling this season.
Bangalore have lost two in a row but there isn't too much to fret about yet. Their batting and bowling still leaves them as the most balanced side in the tournament but the pattern to their last two defeats has been that the bowlers haven't been able to curb the opposition. They allowed Delhi Daredevils to cross 180 and Chennai Super Kings to chase 162 in 19 overs. The batting also hasn't been able to get to consistently challenging scores, especially when the big-hitting Robin Uthappa has failed to convert cameos into defining innings. It seems harsh to criticise the league's leading run scorer, but Jacques Kallis' 52 from 49 deliveries against Chennai actually hurt Bangalore. Bangalore will believe they're a win away from getting back on track, and rightly so.
Team talkWhere to begin with Punjab? Kumar Sangakkara will return, but is that a good thing? He's done nothing with the bat all season. With Shaun Marsh making a solid contribution in his first match, Mahela Jayawardene could finally be benched. Why Love Ablish, the leading wicket-taker for Punjab in the season's Ranji Trophy, and Reetinder Sodhi, an attacking Twenty20 player, have not played a game is beyond this writer.
Bangalore drafted in Kevin Pietersen and Cameron White for the last game and lost it, but don't expect too much tinkering to the line-up. Ross Taylor joined the squad on Thursday, but it remains to be seen whether Bangalore will play him just a day after he lands, that too against the league's laggards. Abhimanyu Mithun could be get a look-in given that Praveen Kumar has had two horror matches on the trot.
Head to headPunjab 3 Bangalore 2
In the spotlightShaun Marsh: He marked his return to the side with 57 from 47 balls and as one of two players to have been away from the squad for an extended period, Marsh could be the least affected by the malaise plaguing Punjab. Fans of the team will hope that is true and that Marsh continues where he left off in 2008, scoring a bucket of runs and providing a change in Punjab's fortunes.
Praveen Kumar: Bangalore's opening bowler has always been a bit of a blow-hot-blow-cold cricketer, capable of getting big movement one day and none the next, and his erratic ways have played a role in the team's two straight losses. Coming off a stellar outing of 1 for 21 from his four overs in the win over Chennai last week, Praveen has given away 87 from seven overs without a wicket in the last two.
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