IPL 2017: KKR eye resurgence against in-form Pune Supergiants in play-offs race
Kolkata: Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) would look to put behind the disappointment of a heavy defeat when they face a resurgent Rising Pune Supergiant in an Indian Premier League clash on Wednesday.
While KKR suffered their heaviest defeat of the season against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their last game, Pune seem to have found their mojo in the business end of the tournament, having registered consecutive wins in their last two matches.
Looking unstoppable with a hat-trick of wins and enjoying a two-point lead over Mumbai Indians, KKR’s winning streak was stopped by Sunrisers.
KKR will now be under pressure to secure the magic number of 16 points and seal their place in the knock-out stage after Mumbai became the first team to secure a play-off berth.
The manner of KKR’s defeat in the rain-interrupted match could be a reality check for the Kolkata outfit that looked heavily reliant on their top-order batting.
Opting to bowl, KKR first had to deal with the combined assault of centurion David Warner and Kane Williamson to concede 200 for the first time this season.
In reply, KKR’s batsmen had no answer to SRH’s 209 and were eventually restricted to 161 for seven as the team slumped to its third defeat of the season.
Barring Robin Uthappa, who made a valiant half-century, no other KKR batsmen lived up to the challenge, exposing the chinks in their middle and lower order.
The confidence of skipper Gautam Gambhir, who had said during the toss against Sunrisers that they are “comfortable chasing so no point changing” the playing eleven, is bound to take a hit and he will be forced to ring in changes.
KKR so far has been cashing in on their top-order with Sunil Narine’s hit-and-miss experiment at the top. When Narine gets going, there is no stopping KKR as more often than not Gambhir and Uthappa have capitalised on the starts.
But in the event of a failure of the trio, the likes of Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan must take up responsibility. Pandey has been in form and needs someone to lend support but KKR have struggled so far at number 6 and 7, the most crucial positions in a limited overs format.
Be it Sheldon Jackson or Suryakumar Yadav, none has delivered and has been a big letdown for KKR and Jharkhand’s Ishank Jaggi might just get a look-in.
Colin de Grandhomme too has failed to make any big impact as Gambhir may tinker with their overseas line-up as well.
Shakib Al Hasan has been sparsely used this season with solitary appearance and it’s high time that Gambhir must start trusting the star Bangladeshi all-rounder before he returns home for national duty.
Pune, on the other hand, are on the ascent from the bottom-half of the table and now find themselves placed securely in top four with a four-point lead over fifth-placed Kings XI Punjab.
Million-dollar Ben Stokes proved his worth with the bat when he hit his maiden Twenty20 century (103 off 63 balls) with less than three weeks to go for the final.
IPL’s costliest player, Stokes, led a 162-run chase while batting at number five in a one-man show against Gujarat Lions in their last game.
Their top-order read 4-6-4-0 with the team 42/4 inside power play but Stokes’ calculated innings sealed a thrilling chase in the penultimate delivery.
All eyes will once again be on India’s most successful Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has shown that he is still in his prime when he led a 177 chase with an unbeaten 61 against Sunrisers.
Dhoni also contributed with a valuable 26 in their match-winning fifth wicket partnership worth 76 runs. His fans in Kolkata will also want him to do well but at the same time will want KKR to back on winning track and seal the play-off berth.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Darren Bravo, Yusuf Pathan, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa and Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, Ankit Rajpoot, Trent Boult, Piyush Chawla, Nathan Coulter Nile, Colin De Grandhomme, Rishi Dhawan, Sayan Ghosh, Shaikb-Al-Hasan, Sheldon Jackson, Ishank Jaggi, Kuldeep Yadav, Chris Woakes, Chris Lynn, Manish Pandey.
Rising Pune Supergiant: Steve Smith (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ashok Dinda, Mayank Agarwal, Faf du Plessis, Ankit Sharma, Baba Aparajith, Ankush Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Dan Christian, Lockie Ferguson, Imran Tahir, Jaskaran Singh, Usman Khawaja, Saurabh Kumar, Ben Stokes, Washington Sundar, Milind Tandon, Manoj Tiwary, Adam Zampa, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishwar Pandey, Rahul Tripathi, Shardul Thakur. Match starts at 8pm. PTI