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The Kolkata Knight Riders pulled off a remarkable performance towards the second half of the tournament, which saw them clinch the second place in the points table at the end of the league phase of the Pepsi IPL 2014. This gives them two chances to make it to the final of the coveted trophy and reclaim the title. The Gautam Gambhir-led side turned things around for themselves with some determined performances first to qualify for the Playoffs and then a with fairytale win to seal the second place. They are now poised to take on Kings XI Punjab in the first qualifier, in their home ground, Eden Gardens.
Addressing the media ahead of the game, coach Trevor Bayliss lauded his team’s efforts. “I am very proud of the boys and the character that they showed. We spoke about for a while that we wanted to be playing well at the end of the tournament and hoped to go into the Playoffs playing well and winning the last seven games; we have achieved that.”
The team maintained its core line-up and did not make any drastic changes while looking to turn their fortunes around. Elaborating on the way they managed the playing eleven while seeking the winning combination, he said, “We did make a few small changes. Probably the biggest change we made was with the batting order while trying to find what is our best combination. Over the course of the tournament, we have come up with our best combination, certainly one that has clicked. It is a case of finding the combination that works; it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best combination, but it is about finding the guys that are in form and doing well. And seven wins in a row I think has proved that.” “I think we that we can still change one or two things around, which we have done in the course of those seven matches. We have tried to find the best possible combination going forward.”
Asked about their plans for the Kings XI Punjab line-up, he said that he wouldn’t want to give away anything as of now. But he did say, “We are going to have to be on our A game. They are a good team, a very good batting team and they could easily turn that around so we have to stay focused and concentrate on what we are doing.”
Asked if Virender Sehwag poses the same kind of threat that he did earlier, the KKR coach observed, “He is still a very dangerous player. Most players, as they get older, their consistency falls a little bit but that doesn’t mean that they can’t score in the same manner that they did before. I think he has betted very well on occasions during this IPL. He has some big scores. We are certainly not taking him lightly, he is a class player and very destructive batsman and one that we will have to get out very early.”
Knight Riders’ winning streak has also coincided with Robin Uthappa’s return to the opener's slot. Speaking about the batsman’s contribution, Bayliss said, “Robin has been fantastic for us since he has gone to the top of the order. We had role for him in the middle order in first half of the season. That obviously from his point of view and ours didn’t quite work. You live and learn as you go on. He has been fantastic since he came to the top of the order. His performance at the top of the order has mirrored our good run.”
Asked about the areas that the team needs to work on in the last leg of the tournament, he said, “I thought that our bowling in the last match was a little bit off early on, so I would like to see that improve. I can’t say too much about what we need to do because I think we have played some very good cricket. In the second and third last matches, I thought we were very good while batting, bowling and fielding. We are at the top of the game and we are confident going into Qualifier 1, which is a good thing.”
Speaking about the team’s momentum, he said that the team has peaked at the right time. And added that it is very similar to when they had won the trophy two years ago. But while speaking about the high that the team are on he was cautious to mention that, “To give yourself a chance you need to win the qualifier and then to give yourself chance in that you need to play good, confident cricket and I feel that’s where we are at. But that doesn’t guarantee anything; we are up against three very good teams.”
NOTE: Due to inclement weather, this match - which was initially scheduled for 8 pm on May 27, 2014 - will be held at 4 pm on May 28, 2014
Qualifier 1 - the first of the four Playoff matches of Pepsi IPL 2014 will see the teams who finished in the top two positions in the standings clash for a direct passage to the tournament final.
Kings XI Punjab, who’ve had their best-ever season in the IPL registering 11 wins, finished the league season atop the eight-team standings. They’ve been ruthless right through the season and have steamrolled opponents mercilessly. They are pitted against the Kolkata Knight Riders, who are one of two teams to have defeated them this season.
At one stage, the Kolkata Knight Riders had just two wins from half their season’s league fixtures and faced an uphill task to qualify for the Playoffs. However, the team has turned the tables in stunning fashion, winning their remaining seven matches on the bounce and barging into the Playoffs. In their most recent outing, riding on a Yusuf Pathan blitz, they decimated Sunrisers Hyderabad and displaced Chennai Super Kings from second place in the points table.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 4 pm IST
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Kings XI Punjab’s batsmen have caused plenty of damage this season; not only have they scored more runs than any other team in the league stage, they’ve scored the runs at an incredible rate of 9.04 runs.
For most part of the season, KXIP’s approach has been to go on an all-out attack. In recent times, Manan Vohra and Virender Sehwag have gone after the bowlers from the word go, while Glenn Maxwell has inflicted scars on bowlers like no other batsman – this despite low scores in his last three outings. David Miller is the other important batsman in the KXIP scheme of things, for he has the game to play second-fiddle when someone is going hammer and tongs at the other end, or turn on the heat when required.
On the bowling front, the KXIP’s attack has been steady, if not menacing. Young Sandeep Sharma has been the pick of the bowlers, often rattling the opposition right at the top. Mitchell Johnson has not been at his best so far this season, and these last few matches give him the opportunity to redeem himself.
There will be plenty of eyeballs on Yusuf Pathan after his exploits in the previous match. The 31-year-old is coming into this match after having scored the fastest half-century in the IPL – off 15 balls. That knock was a demonstration of the fact that on his day the elder of the Pathan brothers is capable of running away with the match singlehandedly.
On the batting front, KKR have ridden on the starts provided by Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa. As a pair, they have operated on the premise that one of them bats for the majority of the 20 overs. Uthappa in particular has been an epitome of consistency; unlike many players who play cross-batted shots or muscle their way, Uthappa is reaping the rewards of playing orthodox cricket.
On the bowling front, the four overs of Sunil Narine will be crucial as usual, while Morne Morkel will be expected to crank up the pace.
Notes from previous match
Kings XI Punjab v Delhi Daredevils: The KXIP bowlers deserve a pat on the back for two things: a) for pulling things back and dismissing the Delhi Daredevils for 115 after they’d raced to 44 in the first six overs, and b) for relentlessly keeping the pressure on the Delhi Daredevils batsmen. Every bowler who got the ball in hand responded by picking up wickets. The one concern for the team management will be the form of Glenn Maxwell, who has been dismissed cheaply in his last three innings.
Kolkata Knight Riders v Sunrisers Hyderabad: Chasing down 160 in a 20-over contest itself is a difficult task. But needing to do it in 15.2 overs, and to be able to do it in 14.2 overs speaks volumes about the belief in the KKR dressing room. The bowling came in for some tap especially early on (SRH scored 69 in the first eight overs) and that will be one area KKR will want to improve. On the batting front, the team will be glad that openers Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir rode on their good form, and that Yusuf Pathan led the way in accomplishing the improbable.
By virtue of their thumping victory in Cuttack earlier this season, the Kolkata Knight Riders have a slight edge over Kings XI Punjab where history is concerned. KKR have won seven of their 13 previous meetings against KXIP.
The story is no different in contests between these two teams at Eden Gardens; hosts KKR have won 3 of their 5 matches against KXIP.
Kings XI Punjab have a 100% record in run-chases in Pepsi IPL 2014; they’ve won each one of their 6 run-chases this season. Kolkata Knight Riders meanwhile have registered victories in their last six run-chases.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ Robin Uthappa (516 runs) has scored 151 more than the second-highest run-getter in the India-leg of Pepsi IPL 2014.
Robin Uthappa’s season aggregate of 613 runs is the highest by a Kolkata Knight Riders player in the IPL. Gautam Gambhir held the previous record when he scored 590 runs in 2012.
The result of this match will dictate what happens to the teams going forward. The winner of this contest progresses to the Final, scheduled to be played at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on June 1. The loser of this contest will travel to Mumbai, where they will meet the winner of the Eliminator (contested between the Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians) on May 30.