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It is a team that will be high on confidence; especially coming off back to back victories under their belt. A nail biting finish against the Pune Warriors India showed that the Kings XI Punjab were capable of keeping their nerves while chasing a huge target; and the dominating win against the Delhi Daredevils in Delhi showed that they have the bowling to restrict some of the best batsmen in the business.
Up next against them are the Kolkata Knight Riders who are not having the best of times this year in the IPL. A string of losses might have dented their confidence, but Kings XI Punjab coach Darren Lehmann was not willing to take their opponents lightly.
“We managed to get across the line against KKR the last time at home. But they are a very good side, tough to beat at their own backyard and we will have to play better than what we have done in the tournament. KKR should have won the last couple of games, and I suppose they lost them in the last moment. That is the nature of T20, but we will hope we get going. ”
Almost everything is going right for the Kings XI. Their domestic players are doing well and some of their overseas players are doing a good job too. Lehmann said there was a lot of scope for improvement though.
“We need our domestic players to keep improving and we also need our overseas players to keep improving. It is a team effort at the end of the day. We have got some really good players, young domestic players, experienced players, overseas players who are all doing their job at different times. The key for us is to bowl and field pretty well. The young players are a great bunch of lads to coach and they are good fun.” Lehmann also reserved praise for young Mandeep Singh who has been in top notch form in the tournament.
“I feel Mandeep is a very fine player. The biggest challenge for him is to be more consistent and make runs every time he plays. The last few games, he has been really good for us. If he keeps doing that, he can go a long way. He is a great young man. You want him in your side.”
The biggest worry however is the form of their captain Adam Gilchrist who has just 67 runs from seven games. “Gilly has led really well and kept wickets well too. We would obviously like more runs from him and he would also want to get a lot more runs. We will have to wait and see how he does,” said an optimistic Lehmann.
A lot was spoken about the availability of Shaun Marsh and the strength he adds to the Kings XI line up. But Lehmann said there were some injury concerns and the left hander will be out of action against KKR. “Shaun Marsh will not play on Friday. He is not fit yet. We tested him before, he is pretty close to recovery, but he will not feature against KKR. We have a couple of other injury concerns as well, but we will have to wait and see till match day how the rest pull up.”
Talking about injuries, KKR might miss out on the services of Jacques Kallis who is nursing a twisted knee while Manoj Tiwary is carrying an injured finger. There was no official confirmation coming on the availability of both the players yet.
When asked if the absence of the two players would prove to be an advantage, Lehmann replied, “We will be looking to beat the eleven on the field. If they are missing out on a good player, they will have a good player replacing him. We just approach every game and every opponent, as we should. There is no advantage. They have an advantage, because they are playing at home. The side that probably bowls well and adapts to the conditions better will come out on top.”
The Kolkata Knight Riders take on Kings XI Punjab in Match 35 of Pepsi IPL 2013.
KKR - the defending champions – currently lie seventh in the standings having won just two of their seven fixtures. After winning their season opener convincingly, KKR have only managed to win one more off their next six matches and have been at the receiving end in each of their last three matches. In their previous match against the Mumbai Indians, they posted 159 on the board and took the match to the last over before Rajat Bhatia’s full-tosses were put away to the boundary.
KXIP meanwhile sit mid-table with four wins and three losses. They come into this contest at the back of wins against Pune Warriors India and Delhi Daredevils. Their journey so far has been on the strength of contributions from the younger batsmen in the team and their bowling attack which has been outstanding. The bowling attack though faces a stiff challenge in this contest given they are likely to encounter a slow surface and not the juicy tracks that their pacers have thrived on.
Friday, April 26, 2013, 8 p.m
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
The presence of Gautam Gambhir at the top of the line-up is certainly reassuring for KKR fans. However the lack of runs from the other batsmen has meant the pressure on the skipper has intensified. Yusuf Pathan and Eoin Morgan have played cameos so far but KKR need much more than that from them. Question marks remain over the participation of Jacques Kallis and Manoj Tiwary owing to injuries; while it will be a blow to the team if either of them miss this game, it could also turn out to be a blessing in disguise given, it could make room for the destructive Brendon McCullum at the top.
KXIP’s wins in the last two matches have been on the back of runs from David Miller and Mandeep Singh. While they will be expected to carry their form, there will also be expectations from skipper Adam Gilchrist to chip in with runs. The Australian has only managed 67 runs in seven innings and those numbers do not do justice to a player of his stature and experience.
On the bowling front, one doesn’t have to look beyond the mystery spinner Sunil Narine. The Trinidadian has been outstanding so far in the competition even picking up the Purple Cap for becoming the leading wicket-taker at this stage in the tournament.
The head-to-head record between Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab stands at five matches a piece.
In the most recent meeting between the two teams at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, it was the hosts who defended 157 to emerge victors by a slender margin of 4 runs.
Though Sunil Narine has only played 22 matches for KKR he is their leading wicket-taker in the IPL with 38 wickets. Jacques Kallis is second on the list with 29 wickets.
Piyush Chawla is Kings XI Punjab’s most-capped player; he has played in 78 of their 80 matches.
After three consecutive home fixtures, KKR will hit the road for back-to-back away games. Their first stop will be at Chennai where they take on the Chennai Super Kings on April 28. Kings XI Punjab meanwhile head to Mumbai on April 29 to take on the Mumbai Indians.