Kolkata, May 21; Pulled back by three consecutive losses, a struggling Mumbai Indians will be up against an in-form Kolkata Knight Riders in a must-win match for them in the Indian Premier League here tomorrow. With a healthy net run-rate, the Knight Riders are all but assured of a play-off berth. But Mumbai Indians have to ensure that theirs remains better than Kings XI Punjab. All the arithmetical probabilities put aside, the clinical Knight Riders are eyeing the second spot on the ladder that will give them a brighter chance to book their final berth.
“By finishing in the top-two, you have a double chance of making it to the final,” the Knight Riders batting mainstay Jacques Kallis said.
“The new system rewards the teams with the best record over the course of the league and makes it harder for those sneaking in third and fourth by making them play a straight knockout and then another match against the loser of the first qualifier.”
In the new IPL format, the loser of the top two teams in the play-off will get a second chance as they are drawn against the winner of the third and fourth teams before advancing to the final.
The Knight Riders under Gautam Gambhir have been the team of the IPL fourth season as they have come solid in both batting and bowling.In the last match, however, Kallis picked up an injury while bowling forcing Gambhir to promote himself to the opening slot.
The left-hander hit seven fours in his 54-run knock off 46 balls as Kolkata overhauled a modest 119-run target with 20 balls to spare at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. Down the order, Manoj Tiwary has been consistent averaging 64 from 13 matches, playing the role of a finisher. The bowling is equally strong as the slow bowlers—Iqbal Abdulla (15 wickets from 13 matches), Shakib-al-Hasan (9/5) and Yusuf Pathan (13/13) -- have been giving match-winning performances.
Bangladesh skipper Shakib was at his best in the last match with superb figures of 4-0-16-2 and it remains surprising why the left-arm spinner has only played five matches so far.
The spinners will be relishing the prospect of bowling on the slow Eden strip tomorrow.But the wounded Mumbai Indians would not be in a mood to relent in what is a must-win match for them. “There will be some changes, because its a different surface which requires different planning,” said skipper Sachin Tendulkar said.
It's really an unbelievable situation for Mumbai Indians who were the most consistent team at one stage with 16 points after 10 matches.
A hat-trick of losses—including two at home—has been morale-shattering for the side.In the previous match, Mumbai Indians' star-studded line-up only managed 133/5 as Rajasthan Royals, riding on a fine 89 not out by Shane Watson, cruised to a 10-wicket win. The main problem for Mumbai Indians has been that their middle-order has failed to fire once top run-getters—Tendulkar (439 runs from 13 matches), Ambati Rayudu (366/13) and Rohit Sharma (349/13) -- have been sent packing. Their big-hitting West Indies recruit Keiron Pollard is due for a big knock while the team is struggling for an effective opening partner for Tendulkar.
In the last match, T Suman looked out of sorts to be dismissed cheaply.Retired Aussie cricketer Andrew Symonds has been a big disappointment with both bat (135 runs from 10 games) and ball (one wicket).
On the other hand, Mumbai's bowling has delivered for the most part through Lasith Malinga (27 from 13) and Munaf Patel (17/13) with ace off-spinner Harbhajan Singh (13/12) giving them fine support.
At his happy hunting ground, the Eden Gardens, Harbhajan will definitely look to play a part when he bowls against the Knight Riders.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir ©, Jacques Kallis, Shreevats Goswami, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Rajat Bhatia, Ryan ten Doeschate, Shakib-al-Hasan, Brett Lee, Laxmipathy Balaji, Iqbal Abdulla, Mark Boucher, Brad Haddin, James Pattinson, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Manvinder Bisla, Sarabjit Ladda, Pradeep Sangwan, Sami Ahmed and Jaidev Unadkat. Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar ©, Ambati Rayudu, Harbhajan Singh, Rohit Sharma, T Suman, Munaf Patel, Aiden Blizzard, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Andrew Symonds, Davy Jacobs, James Franklin, Dilhara Fernando, Ray Price, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Aditya Tare, Ali Murtaza, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pawan Suyal, R Satish, Sarul Kanwar, Suryakumar Yadav, Yuzvendra Singh Chahai.
Match Starts: 8pm local time. PTI